Last night I got a call from my favorite cousin. I hadn’t heard her voice in about 10 years, but as soon as I did I was overwhelmed with emotion. The highlight of summers as a kid was family reunion weekend. As a child, I can remember the old folks worried that the reunion was going to die out, but for over 75 years the Ray Family has been gathering for the “Second Sunday” in August to celebrate family.
We don’t celebrate family like we did back then. Hell, today I can barely be in the same city as my family! But, the memories of driving down those country roads and past the chicken farm to the old church for a reunion was something else. I have never had food like that since!
There was an old “homestead” for the Ray Family. A place we all came from and made the pilgrimage back to once a year. After we ate we wandered off to the family cemetery and paid respects to those gone and not forgotten as long as there was someone old enough to remember how they were connected to our large family.
Even though the house has since fallen in on itself, the Rays still come. Even as a child, I couldn’t wait for the day to arrive and used to beg our parents to let us attend the Friday night festivities. My grandmother, one of the last matriarchs would never arrive before Saturday afternoon and the whole family used to run towards the car as we drove behind the house down towards the barn and the lake. The family would swarm the car as Emma Sue made her arrival. I remember the special wax covered boxes she had stuffed food bowls into and how we collected them to re-use them year after year.
I would take off running towards the other young cousins and we would go the springs, or wander inside the old church on the property and play hide and seek until we were called to eat. I had my first drink of alcohol at a family reunion. Claudia made some lemonade with vodka in it, to be exact it was pink lemonade. A very exotic drink for us in the woods of Alabama!
I haven’t been to a family reunion in 20 years, but the memories of those summers in Alabama are always with me.