My husband and I will celebrate 45 years of marriage this August. We are taking the month of July to do a 4000-mile book tour with my memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World.
The Saturday before we left on this trip, however, we attended a celebration honoring Stuart’s maternal grandparents, Webster Clay and Sarah Mabel Rhodes, who were married in 1914, one hundred years ago.
Can you guess how many descendants they have, including spouses? No one has an exact count, but the best estimate is 1,200.
Our own progeny number six, including spouses, after 45 years. At the most, that number could double or triple in 55 more years. Our descendants, unlike Abraham’s and unlike Grandpap and Grandma Rhodes’, will not number more than the stars in the heavens.
The Rhodes Reunion provided opportunities for us to reconnect with cousins, aunts, and uncles we had not seen in years.
It also led to reflections on the value of a large family that shares the same spiritual heritage. Stories and songs floated up to the rafters in the large gymnasium. Fervent prayers and hymns united all 450 people who attended the reunion, reminding us all of our responsibility to keep the faith.
Just a few sights and sounds from the Rhodes Reunion.
People got to the reunion in cars and trucks, but also by bike, buggy, and buckboard wagon!
The food from the Rhodes family farms and kitchens made the tables groan and the guests salivate. What a treat for country cooking lovers! All eyes focused on the pie table – fifty different homemade pies with no duplication of crust style and filling type. I saved space so that I could have thin slices of shoofly and cherry.
I love to watch the children play at a family reunion. Of the 450 people, about 100 of them were younger than sixteen years old. While we ate indoors, we heard rain pounding the roof. After the program ended, the children, many in dresses and long braids, ran into their natural habitat – the great outdoors. Immediately their shoes came off and the swings were full of legs heading for the sky.
Watching them, I spied the eye of one little girl who reminded me of myself at her age. She was looking for eye contact as she pumped her feet vigorously.
I remembered Robert Lewis Stephenson’s poem, “The Swing”:
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
I also remembered other reunions of Mennonite families in which the same freedom and joy ran wild among the children after the serious singing and praying of the adults. Soon enough the children join the train of the generations, singing and praying and telling stories inside.
And their own children will splash in the puddles and head for the sky on the swings.
What memories do you have of family reunions? Do you come from a large family or a small one?