How My Family Reunion Changed My Life - My Family Travels

My family reunion of 1978 changed my life, forever. It was then- it was there that the baton of “family history” was handed to me.

My family reunion of 1978 changed my life, forever. It was then- it was there that the baton of “family history” was handed to me.

These annual gatherings had been excellent excuses for a new outfit, to eat too much food and hangout with rowdy cousins that I saw only once a year. On this Saturday afternoon, however, I was drawn to “Aunt Christine.” She was sitting alone under a shade tree clutching a severely worn chocolate book and a shabby church fan. Although the other girls were summoning me to peruse the park for the cutest guy, I was mystically compelled to sit and talk with Aunt Christine. She was not surprised by my visit, it was almost as if she was waiting for me because instantly she began to share from “the book.” The yellowed pages were filled with family births, deaths and marriages. There were a few hidden photos and vague notes that she convinced me were precious and priceless.

Hours later, the families began exchanging good-byes. Aunt Christine quickly shoved the chocolate book into my arms. She said she had known for some time that I was “the one.” My instructions were merely to keep it for as long as I wanted, review, revise but eventually pass on.

Later that month Aunt Christine passed away. My first entry into the book was her name and date of her death. For my second entry, I wrote my name and the date of our 1978 reunion. In the margin I inscribed “4th leg.”

Now as I keep the book current, I also find myself secretly eyeing children and youth at our gatherings, trying to determine who will be “the one” to carry “the book,” our baton of family history, into the next generation.  

Tonya Lanier’s essay was the grand prize winner in the Days Inns 2nd Annual Family Reunion Essay Contest. A panel of judges from Temple University selected the essay. The theme for 2000 was: How My Family Reunion Changed My Life. Reprinted with permission, courtesy Days Inn, Cendant Corporation.

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