The last Sunday in July my Dad’s family meets at Percy Quinn State Park in McComb for the Ball family reunion. This tradition began in the 1950s, and it has seen many changes. The reunion has always been a day for catching up with cousins and eating all sorts of delicious homemade recipes. In earlier days it was a more formal event but has become increasingly casual with the passing of time.
I remember attending the reunion as a young child and finding it rather boring except for the food. The last few years as the old guard has died off I have found myself increasingly drawn to the reunion. It’s a way of keeping the extended family together, and I’m sure if not for this event several of us would have lost touch completely. I think our parents gone before us would be very proud that we are continuing with a tradition they held dear.
Daddy always loved his family, and as I recall, never had an unkind word to say about any of his siblings. He looked forward to going to the reunion and catching up with family he didn’t often see. In the old days huge crowds gathered with folks traveling from great distances to share a happy time.
Unfortunately, over the years, the reunion dwindled to a small group of people hanging on to the traditions of their parents before them. I found myself too busy raising a family and working to show much interest in the reunion, as did many others.
Fortunately for us all, a small core group never gave up on the reunion our parents dearly loved. Thankfully, there has been a concerted effort to revitalize our reunion and get more people involved in the last few years. What actually happened, I think, is what happens to a lot of organizations — a few people were working very hard to keep things going without a lot of help.
Two years ago when the folks who had been working so hard decided it was time to step down, I think it made many of us take a fresh look and realize more people needed to help. A committee stepped up to try to breath fresh life into the Ball family reunion. Last year we had a really good turnout, and this year we are all hoping it will be the best attended reunion in a long time.
One thing that should be interesting and a lot of fun is the food. Everyone has been asked to cook an old family dish and share the recipe with the group. I’m looking forward to being able to have a collection of family recipes to pass down to my children and grandchildren. As with many families food has always been central to the Ball family celebrations!
Another thing that has been planned for this year is a heritage table. All have been asked to bring some piece of family memorabilia to share with the other family members.
I can’t wait to see what interesting things my cousins and other relatives will bring. But what I am really excited about is the family stories they will tell.
The family, mine and yours, has been a very significant part of shaping us into the men and women we are. Family and the sense of stability and belonging it gives help to make our country strong by making strong individuals. Family reunions are one of the nails that hold our families together.
It takes a little extra effort to prepare for and attend reunions, but the older I get the more I cherish my extended family. Although it will probably be a sweltering day at Percy Quinn, I’m excited about the stories, the hugs and the food!
Jan Penton Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.