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the family reunion: 2009 edition

August 5, 2009

We gathered, we ate and we cherished the moments in each other’s company.  Yes, another Schwartz family reunion has come and gone.  The conversations were full of life and laughter.  Aunt Magdalene’s chicken sandwiches were savored and consumed, along with a smorgasbord of other foods.  Volleyball games were won and lost all in good family fun.  The award was bestowed on another unsuspecting family member, to everyone else’s delight.

It was a small reunion – I’d guess about sixty or so – but it still lived up to its expectations and hype.  Of course I missed some of my favorite family members who weren’t able to come, like my sister Rose and my cousin Ron, but I still had a fabulous time.  (Rose did make a cameo appearance thanks to her pre-recorded “State of the Re-Union Address”, which was enjoyed and appreciated by all.)

I enjoyed getting caught up with my cousins and seeing how life has changed over the last year.  There was a new baby to meet and toddlers to re-aquiant.  There were exclamiations to be made about weed-like growth and commiserating over non-growth, and the like.  But there are some things that never change, like Grandpa and Cousin Steve pretending they are “so abused” after I returned one of Grandpa’s zingers with a clever remark directed at both of them; or Cousin Brian walking up behind me and pressing an ice cold soda can against my back, reminiscent of those days when he used to throw ice cubes down the back of my shirt, which would send the already awkward preteen version of me flailing in every direction; or watching my brother, Charles, torment and tease the younger cousins.  Yes… some things never change. 

As much as I dislike being surprised by ice cold anything on my back, I can appreciate the steadiness of character in my cousin.  Change is good, but traditions provide fertile soil from which that change grow.  We love our traditions, and sometimes we can be a bit stubborn when a change comes around.  Example: Before lunch, Dad asked everyone to take a seat.  Cousin Catherine and I sat at a table together, all the while discussing why we needed to sit down.  We didn’t remember needing to sit in years past.  We always say grace before eating, but never sat for it.  We tried to figure out what the big deal was.  Perhaps Dad was going to say something about Rose, I surmised, but did we really need to sit?  Dad launched into several announcements.  Catherine and I looked at each other and the others at the table.  The looks on our faces clearly said “He made us sit for this?!”  I leaned across the table and whispered, “He probably wanted us to sit so his voice would carry over our heads.  Dad is short.  If we were standing, there’s no way those of us in the back could hear or see him!”  Sure sitting down isn’t that big of a deal, but we can be stubborn Schwartzs. 

One change we were open to was Dad asked our family seminarian to say the blessing over the food.  At first, I groaned inwardly because I know my brother can be as long-winded as my dad, if not more so, but his prayer was actually short and quite beautiful.  After we finished crossing ourselves, I turned to my cousins and said, “Charles must be really hungry!!”  They all agreed, but we decided that Charles leading the prayer should become a new tradition if he promises to keep future meal prayers under three minutes (FYI – three minutes is a very long time when you are hungry).  See, we are aren’t opposed to all changes.  New traditions are always welcome, but they have to go through rigorous testing first.

In many ways, this reunion was the same as last year or the year before or any year before that, but in other ways it was completely different.  Sure the framework for each is the same, but with every year our relationships with each other grow stronger.  This year, there was a richness that wasn’t there previously.  I suppose I have the Schwartz stubbornness to thank for that.  After all, we are stubborn enough to insist on having a full-fledged family reunion every single year!

I look forward to next year’s reunion and the continued strengthening of the Schwartz family’s stubborn and sturdy foundation.

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