These are the months for annual family reunions, an old custom that continues today. Our family has narrowed down to just our sons and grandchildren; we lost our daughter Michelle and her only child, Elizabeth. My brother and sister have died; RB (87) lost one brother (94) a sister (89) living in a nursing home in Texas and a brother (91) living independently in Mississippi.
This week we’ve watched family reunions occurring in our two Schubert cherry trees. In early spring, those trees have clusters of white flowers that develop into slender stems holding berries the size and color of English peas. The colors of the leaves change along with the berries. In July, the berries turn dark red, indicating they’re ripe. They’re not poisonous and I tasted one, out of curiosity, Believe me, they’re not for human consumption. Birds don’t have taste buds on their tongues but they surely have a taste for those berries. A variety of birds gather in those little trees. There’s not much audible commotion,very little arguing within the groups, but the leaves of the trees look alive with birds going in and out, behind and around.
My dad’s family (the Browns of Pickaway County) had reunions that were incredibly large and great fun. I never met all of my cousins but those I knew, I liked. The Browns were an agreeable group, remarkable for such a large family. My dad had one sister and eight living brothers. One died as a very young child. Choked on popcorn was the story; in the early 1900s an autopsy wasn’t considered. Of eleven healthy babies, just one had an imperfection: a drooped eyelid, probably incurred during delivery. His eye wasn’t injured. I played with the children of all the siblings except Uncle Earl, whose “kids” were as old as my parents.
Each summer, a reunion of Grandpa and Grandma’s families (the Adkins) was organized by the sisters-in-law. Everyone brought a “covered dish” to accompany the food cooked on a grill. Three of the brothers married women named Mary. They were known by the names of their husbands, such a Karl’s Mary, Orrin’s Mary. It was Boyd’s Mary who was the whispered topic of concern before the food was served: “What did Boyd’s Mary bring?” It was boycotted. The sisters-in-law thought her house was not clean (my mother said it was filthy) and her food should be avoided. You’d think that after a few years of taking her food back home that Boyd’s Mary would have been suspicious. I never knew if it was good or not; I wasn’t allowed to eat it.
In regard to cleanliness, almost anyone would have eaten in Karl’s barn because Karl’s Mary did regular housecleaning there. That’s true. More than just removing the manure, she got rid of dust, spiders and their webs, and the pigeons. Cats were allowed to stay and there were no rats.
The brothers were very amiable and I didn’t know the camaraderie didn’t include their wives until I heard an older cousin speaking with husband. Immediately on arrival, he asked her, “who aren’t we speaking to this year? The men stayed married to their wives with one exception. One couple married and divorced twice before marrying a final time.
A group of younger ones, all under 10, nearly killed one of our cousins. Boyd’s Mary was Barbara’s mother and strangely enough, Barbara was kind of fat. (The cooking was better than everyone thought?) Barbara needed exercise, we diagnosed. So we ran her up and down the road, from the steps of the farmhouse to the creek. Her face was a sweaty purple and she was panting when one of the aunts stopped our good intentions. Much more of our help and she’d have died.
After our invasion, everyone cleaned up after themselves, returning the house and lawn to the original pristine condition.
I can’t say as much for the bird reunions. They don’t drop any berries until after they’ve digested them. On the sidewalks. We’ve appreciated the recent rainy days. Nature helping nature.
Carolyn Stevens may be contacted via mail at 719 Park Ave., Piqua, or by email at [email protected]