Nicole Alderman wrote:This reminds me of some of the small ways that my family has tried to stay together over the generations. A little over 100 years ago, my great-great grandparents set apart 5 acres of land to be a family park. That generation has long since past, and the generation after them are almost all gone too, but every year we all gather together for a family reunion. There's potlucks, a family auction (people bring things they no longer want, or that they have made) and the funds go toward maintenance of the park. There's even a little church service in the park. There's something amazingly special and about sitting in meadow, surrounded by trees and family, singing out of 50+year old hymnals while one of your relatives gives a short sermon. Invariably, there's hawks that soar overhead and butterflies flitting about. Every year, at least 100 family member come. Some live nearby and walk down for the reunion, some (like myself) stay at a cousin's house for the weekend, and other's camp in the park. I watch my son and his cousins play on the merry-go-round that I spun on as a child. As long as I live and I am able, I will make it to the reunion. My ancestors did something right when they set aside the park--they're family still gathers together there.
Another thing that my great-grandfather did when he divided up his land, was plant Christmas trees on it all and then bequeathed it to his kids. This meant that every Thanksgiving we'd all have to gather together to harvest those Christmas trees for market, and of course, there'd be a big Thanksgiving potluck in the little country church, where we'd take over the basement for our supper. My dad remarks that Christmas tree harvesting was also a way for the father's to evaluate their daughter's potential spouses--so they had to work extra hard hauling those trees up the steep hill in the snow! The Christmas tree harvesting went on for a good 40 years, I think, until my grandmother got too old to manage the trees. But, for a good 20 years after that we continued to gather in the church basement for our big Thanksgiving dinner. Once my grandmother passed, four years ago, however, everyone stopped gathering for Thanksgiving, as there was no one to organize it, and it was harder and harder for everyone to juggle all their families to come. I'm still sad that we no longer celebrate Thanksgiving with my Mom's side.
My parents also started a tradition about 11 years ago. They bought a cider press for their apple trees. So, of course, we all have to gather together to press the cider every fall, and we take gallons home to enjoy. First it was my parent, grandparents and my brother and me. Then it was my husband (who was my boyfriend, then). My grandparents got too old to help, but by that point, my brother's wife had entered into the picture. Soon I was carrying my son on my back while I worked, and now my son runs and picks apples out of barrels for us to chop and add to the press. It's wonderful having this tradition, and something we all look forward to each year.
Now, that's all a little off topic, as it's more about traditions. But, I think, in many ways those traditions can act as a binding for a family, and helps hold a community together, even after the founder of those traditions have passed. And, looking at the traditions in my family, and seeing which ones really stood the test of time, it seems to me that there really needs to be a passing off of responsibilities to nest generations. If there isn't--like with our Thanksgiving--no one will organize the next event, and it just won't happen. For our family park/reunion, we actually vote in secretaries and "presidents" and are urging my generation to take over more of the rolls, as my parent's generation is now in their 60's and 70's. I think because we vote for these "officials," it ensures that somebody takes ownership of the necessary rolls in keeping the reunion and park going, and it also helps in urging the younger generation to step up and learn what needs to be done before the older generation is unable to teach and train us.