Monday, November 25, 2013

Family Gatherings

Great-Grandparents and their children & grandchildren.  Mid-1920s
It's that time of year when I start thinking of the Good Ol' Days.  Holidays do that, and with Thanksgiving only a few days away, those memories of my family's holiday get-togethers come tumbling back through my mind.

I'm not technically a member of the genealogy of my family.  I'm adopted.  But my adopted family is all I've ever known, and I'm proud to be a part of them, even though I won't ever be listed in the official genealogy records.  I don't mind.  It's still my family.

My grandmother was the oldest girl of seven children.  Her grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1886 and settled on the farmland of Kansas.  She passed away when I was six months old, so I don't remember her.  But I have known most of her brothers and sisters, my great-uncles and great-aunts.  And their kids and their kids' kids.  I have a LOT of cousins.

The family enjoyed getting together and did so often.  The photo on the right was taken in the late 1930s.  The bib-overalls are proof that this was a farming family, although the photo was taken in the city at my grandparents' house.  I love this picture, because it's the house where I grew up, after my grandparents passed away.  The boy in the overalls standing with his hands in his pockets is my uncle.  My mother's younger brother.  As it is with many families now, the men would gather in one spot, while the women gathered in another--usually the kitchen!

Thanksgiving and Christmas were always big family affairs when I was growing up.  As many as possible would gather for a big dinner out in the country on one of the farms.  Quite often it would be at the home  of one of my Great-aunts, Aunt Dorothy or Aunt Lucy.  Lucy had a twin, Louis, but I didn't see much of him.  It was those two Great-aunts and their families who celebrated the holidays together.  There was never a lack of good food.  Everyone brought something.  My mom was often the one who cooked and brought the turkey, so I'd always wake up to the smell of roasting turkey on holiday mornings.

They were a noisy bunch.  Talking, joking and laughing went on throughout the day.  When everyone had stuffed themselves, but still sneaked an olive, celery stick or carrot, or another slice of homemade pie, they cleared the table, washed the dishes.  Once the chores were done, the grownups sat at the table for an afternoon and evening of playing cards.  Pitch was always the card game played, and I've never learned how to play it.  The level of sound would go up, and we kids could often hear the friendly arguments and shouts, while we climbed trees and scouted out the livestock outside.  I remember bottle feeding lambs and gathering eggs, which I detested, convinced that if a hen pecked me, I'd get chicken pox.  That proved to be untrue, of course, even though I did have chicken pox when I was 10.

As they evening grew later, talk of going home would begin, but it would take some time before everyone could tear themselves away from the good company and that last piece of Aunt Dorothy's chocolate pie.  When we kids were older, we'd have Aunt Dorothy bring out the wood folding table.  Four of us would sit at it and ask the table (spirit) questions.  The table would tilt on two legs, then drop down to "knock" once or twice for yes or no.  I've discovered mine wasn't the only family that did this, so we weren't the only "crazy" ones.

The drive down to the farm had seemed hours long, but it was barely 25 miles.  On the way home, as we drove in the dark through the small town that would one day be where I finished growing up, we followed a diagonal road shortcut that appeared to lead straight into the big grain elevator.  Of course it didn't end up at the elevator, instead leading to the north-south road that would take us home.  It wouldn't be long before I fell asleep in the quiet of the night, only to be roused, sleepy and grumpy when we arrived home.  Then off to bed, thinking of how fun and happy the day with family had been, eager for the next holiday.

I hope your memories of long-ago are as happy as mine!
Family is not an important thing. It's everything. ~ Michael J. Fox

No comments: