Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Family Reunions

As a little girl, I loved spending time with my family. Not just my immediate family, but grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and the like. I have fond memories of getting together over holidays, or swimming in the pool in my grandma and grandpa’s backyard while all the grown-ups sat around and talked.

Most memorable for me, though, were the family reunions we’d attend every few years with my dad’s extended family in Arkansas. My great-grandma was still around for a few years of my childhood and the whole family would meet at the farm house in Sardis, with my grandpa’s siblings and their families in tow. My great-grandpa, before he passed away, was known for his watermelon and sweet potatoes that he grew on that old farm south of Little Rock.

By the time I visited as a kid, the farm’s heyday had passed. I still found the whole experience fantastic. I remember being completely terrified of the cows, but still wanting to get as close to them as they’d allow. My great-uncle Kenneth and his wife Barbara (a real-life Barbie and Ken to my six-year-old self) lived in a house next door to the old farmhouse and I remember borrowing great-aunt Ruby’s swimsuit to go play in their hot tub. The suit was too long on my little body and the rear hung down to my knees, but I was happy as could be to hang out at Barbie and Ken’s house.

It’s been several years since I’ve been back to the farm; the last time was while I was in high school. I returned over the 4th of July weekend with my parents and my son to a family reunion hosted by distant cousins of my grandpa Rodney. Sadly, he passed away in 2013, but I’m certain he was with us in spirit as we visited with family he grew up with.

I spent much of my time talking with my great-uncle Ken, whose real-life Barbie died just a few months ago. He reminded me so much of my grandpa and it was hard to not get a little emotional to see how much they look alike. He couldn’t get over how “grown-up and beautiful” I am, and he held my face in his hands and kissed my cheek, much like my grandpa always did.

The farmhouse has sat empty for some time now, but the memories of family, food and bonding still remain. What once was a land full of my great-grandpa’s sweat, blood and hard work is now acres and acres of green. Walking up to the front door of the house, I still imagined my great-grandmother’s petite frame welcoming us with a warm hug and something to eat.

Unfortunately, this may have been the last time I’ll get to see the old farmhouse, as the family continues to age and grow. I’m grateful my son had a chance to see it and meet some of the people that make up his family, a family that I hold so close to my heart.

This Independence Day, I celebrated my heritage, my family and the memories I have spending time on the farm in Sardis, Arkansas.

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