“It’s so nice to come together” — Gamble & Huff, from the O’Jays song, “Family Reunion.”

I’ve been hanging out at the Dixon-Goodlow family reunion this month and I had a ball! Yes, it is an annual thing; but the more we do it, the more I know it’s important.

Every year, there are more and more children running around and fewer and fewer elders — a category I just realized describes what I am. 

Churches applaud the sound of crying babies, because it means the church has life and will go on.

Likewise, our family celebrated the birth of month-old twins Bentley and London, enough toddlers to make a daycare video, little ones who seemed tiny last year but are now 8 or 9 — and electronic device-attached teenagers and pre-teens galore.  

We’ve been meeting annually for six or seven years now, at the behest of my now-deceased mother-in-law, who insisted that we gather every year.

The huge hole her death left is still gaping four years later, but we know she’d be tickled to see this tradition go on. Here are this year’s best lessons:

Whether your family meets every year, every two or every five, it’s worth the effort. When someone dies, we try to attend the funerals, but it’s so much more fun to be together for happy times.

Plan early and be there to be counted and known. I’ve often explained how this one belongs to that one, but my grandchildren still aren’t quite clear how the family tree and branches work until they see the actual people.

I make it easy and introduce myself as everybody’s Aunt Cynthia. 

Tell all the stories, not just the good ones. As the oldest of the Hopson children, my husband Roger, tells the ancestral stories of the family, since hardly anybody else knows or remembers Riggs and Jill Dixon, where it all began, or Uncle Johnny, Granddaddy or Mama Rena.

He loves telling how his grandfather, Isaiah Goodlow, had to flee Alabama in the early 1900s after shooting a few bad men, and how his Uncle James became a hero after he lied about his age to enter World War II. 

He tells about the family’s honor and integrity, what we stand for and why the legacies are important, and then challenges and encourages the generations to learn from the mistakes and carry forth the good. 

When you volunteer your time and gifts, the time is enjoyable for everyone. Organizing family reunions has been likened to herding cats — lots of moving parts.

Food, lodging, snacks, travel, facilities, activities and a million other things make this hard, tedious work.

If we’re not careful, the bulk of the load falls on a committed few while everyone else is out having fun. Many hands make light work is what my mother always said.

So plan to do your part: sign up early for the planning or other committees, cheerfully do your part — no whining please — send your money early, keep in touch with updates and take lots of pictures and videos.

Oh, and get name tags so next year you can remember which one is Bentley and which one is London!

 

CYNTHIA A. BOND HOPSON, Ph.D., of Cordova is a native Tennessean, educator, author and mentor. She and her husband, Roger, lived in Paris twice. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook@drbondhopson.

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