My mom’s family had reunions every year at the same time so that we could make sure it was on our calendars. Dad’s family, however, had get-togethers.
Dad’s family had one girl and five boys. Grandma Gillette used to say that she grew up on a farm and married a teacher so she could get off that farm. However, when the boys started coming along, her husband decided that a farm was a better place to raise boys and Grandma ended up back on the farm.
Aunt Laurine was the oldest and was elected to keep an eye on the boys. When they all got older, I think the boys felt sorry for her!
I asked Dad for stories about his folks and how they met. He told me that he didn’t know much about his folks’ generation. They all had kids and, when Dad’s family got with their cousins, they all had so much fun, no one paid much attention to the grown-ups.
When we lived in the little house, when everyone was poor, Dad’s family would get together at someone’s house. Sometimes we’d meet in Ohio where a couple of the siblings lived, or we’d meet in Texas or Colorado; but one time there was a gathering at our little two-bedroom house. I don’t remember how many people we had but it couldn’t have been more than a couple of families.
My brother was still in a crib so got to keep his bed, but my bed went to grown-ups. We spread out blankets on the floor of the living room for the four or five cousins and that’s where we spent the night. It was kind of scary to have that many people in our little house, but it worked out fine.
Another time, it was decided to camp out at Lake of the Ozarks. Everyone brought their camping stuff and we met in Arkansas. There were all kinds of camps. One brother brought a tent that had three or four rooms in it – and a covered porch! The Patterson family had a pop-up camper and Dad had rented one, so we were off the ground at least. Another brother had a motel room in town and all the aunts decided to spend as much time as possible in the air conditioning – far from the sand and dust.
There were fifteen cousins in a wide range of ages – seven boys and eight girls. Two of the boys were older – maybe in high school. One cousin and I were next in age – 16 and 14 years old – but the rest were 12 years old and younger. Aunt Laurine made the mistake of offering to keep an eye on us cousins while the rest of the aunts went to town to visit the motel. She said later that it wasn’t bad keeping an eye on the toddlers but us teenagers turned her hair gray!
There was a lot of competition among the brothers. They all liked to travel and see new places. Dad and Uncle John would take movies of the places they’d been and, when we got together with them, we’d have to watch the movies. One time, Uncle John brought a cartoon that he had. Dad called foul on that and decided that he had won the legitimate prize for best original movie.
Dad’s family was an adventurous, rambunctious bunch. Whatever they did, they did full out and non-stop until it was done. They have all passed away now but, when I look back, their lives reflected this attitude. From start to finish, their lives were lived full out and non-stop.