There is a delightful, award-winning children’s book entitled The Relatives Came , by Cynthia Rylant. It tells the story of family members from Virginia, who came to visit in a station wagon that could “hold a crowd of folk and looked like a rainbow.” An exact destination is not given but they “left at 4 in the morning, came up from Virginia, drove all day long and into the night.” The illustrations show exuberant hugging, (“Those relatives just passed us all around their car, pulling us against their wrinkled Virginia clothes”) joyous feasting and at the end of the day, everyone bunking up wherever there was a free space. This book depicts the true spirit of family reunions, if not the reality, since reunion “war stories” abound.
Summer seems to be the favorite time of year for a gathering of the clans. Like Rylant’s group, my kith and kin came up from Virginia, although they arrived in a classic, flare- finned Cadillac. To my young Yankee way of thinking, they were coca- cola drinking, grits-eating (They must have brought their own) full-of-life exotics. Their visit involved very little planning, except for a letter or phone call stating the day of arrival. My mother had remained true to some old southern traditions, so it never occurred to her to look into hotels for them. Instead, I had to bunk up with cousins I barely knew. Nevertheless, it was usually a wonderful, warm time of eating and reminiscing and our house always seemed emptier after they left.
Today reunions are big business and as soon as one is finished, plans start for the next one. They often require a finance committee, a search committee and an events planner. The number of attendees can range from a few dozen to a few hundred, depending on how near your dear ones are and how many of the family tree branches you want to include.
A project of this size requires lots of work and fortunately, there are plenty of resources available. An excellent help is The DeKalb Visitors Bureau. They provide extensive reunion services, which include finding budget friendly accommodations, events planning assistance, lists of local attractions and dining recommendations. They also conduct planning workshops around the county and even provide volunteers to assist with your activities. To visit their website, go to www.dcvb.org. Reunions Magazine at www.reunionsmag.com offers assistance as well, as does www.family-reunion.com, “The web’s Most Popular Family Reunion Planning Site.” If you prefer a book to have on hand, check out a copy of Your Family Reunion: How to Plan it, Organize it and Enjoy It. It’s an exhaustive look at planning a successful reunion and covers event sizes, locations, cost, pursuing family genealogy, food, games and much, much more. Best of all, at the end of each chapter there is a page of internet resources dealing with that subject.
The word reunion means “to come together again.” Whether it’s with a small, informal gathering or an extravaganza, tightening the family ties can be nourishing, fulfilling and rewarding—especially if you don’t have to give up your bed.