The Ties That Bind

Myron and I are going to a family reunion over the July Fourth weekend for my dad’s side of the family in Texarkana, Arkansas. It’s going to be particularly interesting for me because the last time I went was in 2009 when I was still very much single (though Myron and I had been on 1 date) and now, in 2011 I’m coming back with a husband in tow! It’s funny how quickly things can change.

 What I was mostly thinking about  as we prepare to hit the highway, is how families can keep the bonds tight, in a digital age?? I remember growing up and seeing my cousins on both sides fairly regularly both during the school year and on summer breaks when I would go  to stay with my paternal and maternal grandmothers. While I am FB friends with a good many cousins and aunts, I have cousins that I haven’t laid eyes on since I became an adult, mainly because we don’t run in the same circles. My older aunts seem to be the ties that bind our families these days because they tend to initiate and plan the reunions. Almost all of our elders on both sides of my family are gone. On Myron’s side, his mother’s parents are deceased and his paternal grandparents are blessedly still with us but due to dementia, don’t remember their own children. Both sets of my grandparents are dead. I don’t really know who is going to pick up the torch when my parents and other aunties and uncles are gone. Will it be me or some of my other cousins? Will folks even care enough to get together by then?

 It seems like society is moving into an age where the notion of what is family is expanding to not only include blood relatives but friends. My friend and blogger buddy Monica Mingo, calls it FRAMILY. I think that’s a very good description. Framilies are what you make them and it’s not always a mom, a dad, 2.5 kids and a dog. That part is the good part. The harder part is staying connected on a deeper level with your people, when everyone is busy and doing their own thing.

 Does your family have reunions? Is your family close knit or not?? Is FB where everyone is going to these days to stay in touch?

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15 thoughts on “The Ties That Bind

  1. We have reunions. It’s certain times of the year that my father’s side of the family gets together and I do my best to keep abreast of what’s going on. As an adult, I haven’t been to a lot of those, but it’s not like they don’t know who I am. Since I have a close relationship with most of them, it’s more of a catch up time for the others when I go. Some of them live in my area, so we get together every other month or so. My mom’s side of the family used to get together regularly, but somewhere along the line, we fell off a bit; even more so after my grandma past away in 07. My paternal grandpa is my only grandparent left. It’s the same for JD. I used to initiate a lot of the family functions on my mom’s side, but I stopped doing that. I felt I shouldn’t be the only one doing it. My aunts have taken the reins, and in the past couple of years we’ve seen a lot of each other; which I love. We actually are having TWO family gatherings this month from my mom’s side. One is today in N.C., but I couldn’t go. BOOOO! And the other is later in the month in VA, which I’ll attend. I said ALL of that to mean, yes, we’re close knit. LOL For those I don’t see everyday, I keep up with them on Facebook and call from time to time.

  2. Forgot to mention my dad’s side. My dad has 8 siblings (1 decease). My grandparents have a lot of grandchild and great grand children. Only 3 of the siblings including my father stayed in our hometown and the rest all moved away….one in Little Rock, one in St Louis, 3 in Chicago. But growing up everyone would come back for holidays and the summers and we would travel to see them. A lot of summers, my cousins from Chicago & St Louis would spend the summer in my hometown. I miss those days. #goodtimes. Now I probably see those same cousins once every 4 years.

  3. I sometimes think about who is going to pick up the torch in my generation. With my mom’s generation a lot of them have lived in our hometown their whole lives. Whereas with my generation, majority of us left. So we rarely see each other now. From the time I can remember, we had family gatherings. As the years are going by, they are getting less and less.

  4. I’m not close with extended family on either side of the family tree.

    The paternal family had a reunion in ’09. I hadn’t seen those folks since the last reunion I went to when I was a child. Some faces looked familiar, most did not. After it was over, I was not left with an overwhelming sense of needing to establish relationships with them. Sure they are family but to me they are essentially semi-strangers. I couldn’t even tell you most of their names right now if you asked me. LOL My sister on the other hand, likes hanging out with them. I’m happy for her but that’s not something I see myself doing. I’ve lived my life without them in it for so long that this is the norm. I’m happy with that.

    We don’t really have a need to have reunions on my mother’s side of the family. It’s so small that we can just visit during holidays….which is about as often as we see each other anyway. My favorite, by far, is my younger gay cousin. He’s flamin’. LOL I love him dearly.

  5. I promise you I was just thinking about this very thing! My Dad’s mother is the only grandparent I have left and I fear that when she dies I really may never see my aunts, uncles and cousins again – the only place we get together is at my Grandma’s. I guess we’ll make more of an effort to see each other – but even as I type this I know it’s not true.

    My Mom’s family is relatively small and we keep in touch on FB – that’s about it.

    I haven’t been to a family reunion in forever and don’t see that changing soon.

  6. My maternal and paternal families are very close. My family on both sides has been in CA for generations and most live in close proximity. Proximity makes it easy to stay close. We’ve managed to remain close since my ancestors were freed and migrated to California. I regularly speak to and socialize with the offspring of my great grandfather’s siblings.

    I think the older generations have to value and enjoy remaining close. The younger generations will adopt that value.

    My family currently has two generations above me. My generation plans the reunions. Having the 30 somethings do it provides some assurance that it won’t fall apart when the generations above us depart. When I was a child and had 3 generations above me my mother’s generation planned things. I think that helps things continue. We know that the grandparents or great grandparents are not the glue.

  7. My maternal family are not extended family oriented. So it’s always been my mom and her siblings that got together on holidays. No formal reunions. But I’m actually closer to this side of my family. I go all the way to Philly at least every 4-6 weeks to have my cousin maintain my locs just to keep us close.

    My Dad’s side of the family has been the really tight-knit group. When my paternal Grandad and his brothers were alive we had family reunion every year, alternating between Ohio and Philly. Now that my Dad’s generation are in their 70’s and 80’s we have slacked off. That makes me sad because my Granddad and his brothers came through some very hard times but still kept their families really tight, despite being 400 miles apart. My cousins and I have all of this technology a first class Interstate Highway System and yet we still can’t manage to get it together to continue what our Grandparents set up. Thanks to FB I at least am in regular contact with some of my cousins in Ohio, and my Philly cousins I see a few times in the year. At least my Dad and his brothers and cousins hang out on a regular basis and are still life long best friends. They are my model of family, I LOVE those dudes!

  8. My family has two many daggone family reunions, for real. 1 on my dad’s side. 3 on my mom’s side. Plus my mom comes from a blended family so her step-parents relatives all include her (and us) in their reunions. My mother’s family has an additional reunion every year over thanksgiving. If I never go to another family reunion again, I’ll be okay. I got drawers over flowing with them daggone t-shirts. My mom plans the reunion for my dad’s family and 1 for her family. The younger cousins (under 40) have started participating more in the planning so there are activities we like to do.

    My thing is you have a reunion with people but you don’t really really KNOW them. I know who they are and their names but that’s it. And if you don’t have other things in common with a person its hard to enjoy spending time with them because you share a great-grandparent. It’s hard for me to feel close to people that I might see once a year, if that. Or that I only met as an adult. It just seems kinda forced. I do know all of my maternal grandmother’s siblings all of their children and their children (I know them beyond facebook and know what’s going on in their lives) because I developed bonds with them while I was growing up.

    In general, I think family reunions are great but for me personally, I’m over them. I Think I sound like the family reunion grinch. I think it’s sad for a family not to have some type of reunion but we’ve just gone overboard in my situation.

    • I know exactly what you mean. Last family reunion I went to I was like “alrightie then…I don’t really want to talk to these people” and spent all of my time talking to…my parents and brothers.

      Of course, I’m not the most outgoing person in the world, so that might have been a factor. But the whole “get together with a bunch of people you don’t know but share genes with” thing seemed a little forced to me too.

  9. great post. what my elders have done on my mother’s side has been to recruit the younger generation starting with my generation and under to be on the planning committee for the reunions. It’s still headed up by those in my mom’s generation but they are grooming us to take over the helm. We began having reunions again in 2000 and have done it on a bi-annual basis.. we keep in touch via FB, email & text msgs. It’s crazy to get a text from my great aunt to remind my mother that so & so bday is coming & she need to call them.. I always ask why she ain’t just text my mom her response.. u know your mother don’t like to answer people back! LOL

    I’m happy that this has been taking place because I’m in touch with family I haven’t seen in forever and it feels good..

  10. Great post. My side of the family is a lot more complicated but the hubs fam tries their best to stay close. We often stay at his Aunt’s house at the Jersey Shore, where we also do Thxgiving, etc. I’m a big fan of extending friends as family as well. We call them “Fuzins” – friends of the family who are more like cousins than friends. It’s easier to say “this is my cousin Mike” than it is to say “This is my friend Mike, we grew up together & our Mom’s have been friends since kindergarten, etc.” Fuzins. 😉

  11. Timely post – our family is having its first reunion this year in NY. A lot of things caused us to think about doing this so we finally bit the bullet and made it happen this year – it’s actually called the 1st annual no excuses ________ family reunion. I come from a large family and with everyone spread out on different coasts and starting/having their own families. By default, it looks like my siblings and I have picked up the torch to make this happen. We plan to keep this going as long as we can until the next generation steps up.

  12. This is a good question. My dad’s family is small. It’s my daddy, my uncle and his wife (no children), my brother, me and my niece. That’s it. My Granny (she died last September) was the one who kept us at the family reunions for her side of the family and kept up with Granddaddy’s people (he died in 1986). Now that she’s gone, I just don’t know who will do it. Sigh.

    My mom’s side of the family is bigger (she has five brothers and sisters) and everybody keeps up with each other but, like you, that’s thanks to my mom’s generation making it happen. I am friends with some of my first cousins on Facebook, but, they are also the ones I talk to the most beyond Facebook. That said, I only have six first cousins so it’s not a huge group to keep in touch with.

  13. Growing up, I knew my mother’s mother’s family really well – even with all the family drama I grew up visiting my aunts/uncles & cousins regularly. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that my mother’s father & his side of the family came back into the fold. On my dad’s side, his family has always been close & I remember as a child making that roadtrip to VA from MI to go to his family reunion. My mom’s dad’s side had their first famly reunion last year & I met a ton of family & learned a ton about family history.

    Almost everybody in my family is on FB, which is good cause I have a bad habit of not calling folks 😦 I’m just not a phone person, I only call my mama everyday.

  14. Great post Tiffany! My family is pretty close knit. (My dad’s family that is, my mom is still struggling to bring hers close together). Our immediate family is mostly in L.A., CA, but our extended family spreads across the U.S. Which means I have relatives I don’t and never will know. Depends on who makes it to what family reunion and when. Some folks only come when it’s in there city, while others don’t miss one! (We have them every two years).

    But I have the same question that you have with your family, “I don’t really know who is going to pick up the torch when my parents and other aunties and uncles are gone. Will it be me or some of my other cousins? Will folks even care enough to get together by then?” I hope for our children’s sake, we will continue what has been started.

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