In the hot summer of 1964, my father and my uncle found a spot on the riverbank of the Duck in Bedford County and declared the first family reunion. It wasn't even for their side of the family - they were the in-laws. Most of us kids were in high school or younger and this was a great adventure. We pitched tents. When someone found an old Martha Washington wood stove abandoned in the woods, dragged it up, and tied it to a tree, my grandmother made her grandmother biscuits. We cooked those things in that old stove as if the bakery had just opened, and still laugh about those mouth-watering morsels all these years later. We even laugh about the mud the next day because, of course, it rained.
And, all these years later, we just had our 52nd Lindsey family reunion. Because we started out in tents, our reunion got named "The Camp Out" even though we now "camp out" in a big lodge and air-conditioned cabins along the Tennessee River. Camp out lore goes beyond biscuits. We’ve had themes of "Survivor," Hawaii, carnival, and the 60’s. We’ve had rollicking games of Trivial Pursuit and all night Rook tournaments. We had a talent show one year with five of the elders doing a rap song that brought the house down. There are memories of cousins headfirst in a bucket of ice and canoe flips in the river. Many of the cousins who are parents today grew up on scary camp out ghost stories told by flashlight. There were foods that we looked forward to every year because we could count on each aunt to bring her specialty - pecan tarts, little chocolate pies, stack cakes, banana pudding in a dishpan, and more, lined up down two long tables. The cooking may not be quite as good, but we still try to copy those old
Although the photo from 1983 remains intact, sometimes we put visiting boy or girlfriends on the end – in case we had to chop them out before the next year. You’d be surprised, or maybe you wouldn’t, how often that happened!
2017 will be our 53rd gathering. All our aunts are gone now, uncles too, everybody's parents, and our sweet grandmother. Some of us have already lost our spouse. But the rest of us represent, as my generation has become the current one standing. We keep the tradition alive as we gradually start the
hand off to our kids.
The founding fathers would be pleased. They knew the importance of family. And in the uncertain, and often, heartbreaking world we live in today, we know it too. It is reassuring to have family you can count on, folks who will show up every year just because they love you.
If you do not have a way to connect with the people you love, I suggest you start one. Any 'ole riverbank will do.