Evolving family reunions

The other type of reunion that’s likely to happen during this season of the year is, of course, the family reunion. And I know that such gatherings do still happen, but in a different form, perhaps, than used to be the case. But isn’t that true about just about everything in our culture today?

Today there are all kinds of topics online about family reunions. One can use resources for ideas, shirts, games, invitations, and planning. You can get information about songs, poems, even speeches for your family reunion, decorations and banners, themes and activities.

It’s funny, but I didn’t find one entry about potluck dishes good for a reunion, although there probably was one if I had kept looking. It seems to me that’s pretty much the focus of our family reunion planning here in Iowa, where family reunions are tradition and traditional.

Such gatherings are important as a way to stay connected with family members, to pass on family heritage and traditions to the children, and to learn more and/or teach about family history, according to one source I consulted. Reunions also help us to identify with people who share similar interests, goals, and give us a sense of belonging. Some family reunions center around a special event like a wedding or maybe a memorial service. I know of one family that considers if there are any upcoming graduation receptions or weddings scheduled before they decide if they want to go ahead an plan a reunion for that particular season.

For some of us, attending a family reunion means going home, and for some of us home is wherever our family is, so location isn’t that important. I understand that some families today have destination reunions, so everyone travels to a place where they can all be together, get reacquainted, and just have fun. Often today our sense of home is rooted less in a place than in the family spirit itself. You could say that reunions reinvent home.

Somehow, I generally think that a family reunion should be a big affair with lots of folks of all ages. But I remember I had a professor who said that his family was so small they could hold a family reunion in the cab of a pickup. My family isn’t quite that small; but I hope that what we lack in numbers, we make up for in unity and support of each other.

I guess I don’t really know what I miss by not having a large extended family nearby where I grew up. But I do agree with Jane Howard: “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, we all need one.”