Saturday, February 19, 2005

reunion

It's really an anachronism. Families just don't do this kind of stuff anymore. Twice a year, my mother's family gets together in Bulverde, Texas. My grandmother grew up in a family of 6 kids. during the depression. With a single-parent mother. incredible.
My great-grandmother, Frida Stoudt, had 5 kids with with her husband (McNeil) when they took in a 16 year-old girl who had no where else to go. An affair began between this girl and my great-grandfather.
Picture this, it's the 20's. The country is in a depression. My great-grandmother has 6 kids. What do you do? She marches up to him and says it's her or me. He chooses the teenager. She walks out, raises 5 kids, working 2 jobs, washing clothes and raising chickens. My grandmother's aunt and uncle offer to raise her, but great grandma refused.
Later, she gets remarried to the man I know as my great grandpa. this brings the kid total up to 6. They raise these children together, despite the times when grandpa Stoudt would drink and gamble all of their money away. But great grandma knew that in spite of his flaws, he was faithful to her and he loved her and the kids.
My fondest memories as a child were visiting the farm where they lived and throwing feed to the chickens who scurried around, sitting down on the weathered wooden steps with a plate full of toast smothered with preserves that great grandma had made. I have never tasted an equal. Great grandma would tease me and ask "what's my name? Puddn' Tame. Ask me again and I'll tell you the same." I still don't know what that means but it made me crack up then and it still makes me smile.
What makes my family unusual is how those 6 kids have stayed connected and committed to their family and they have instilled this same set of values in their children and their children's children. Twice a year, young and old drive across the state to get together in the old Bulverde Community Center for a potluck meal of German potato salad, venison sausage, deviled eggs, stuffed cabbage and other family favorites. We eat and we talk. A family update is given by each of the heads of family, and the kids (i'm still included in this group) head over to the school next door and play our annual game of "tag your cousin with a tennis ball". The game is much more sophisticated than that, complete with rules and boundaries, but the whole point of the game is to hit your cousins very hard with a tennis ball. I love it.
As a young kid I never really paid attention to who all of the old people were and I still can't say exactly who everybody is, but there was a time when I started to make connections of who all great grandma's kids were and I kept coming up with an extra old lady. I finally asked my sister "who's that old lady over there? Does Happy (my grandma) have a sister I don't know about?" She takes me over to a corner and explains to me that the white haired old lady sitting with all of the family, the same white haired old lady that Happy would go and visit in the nursing home, she was the 16 year old that my grandfather had run off with. My family had once again taken her in, because she had no where else to go.
Incredible.

1 comment:

disgruntled world citizen said...

wow, grace and forgiveness. i wish my family was this close. my relations are all over the place and i don't most of them.