Sunday, 25 August 2013

Family Reunions

We Each Have A Story To Tell
This morning Paul and I attended morning service at the Chesley Lake Hallman Chapel.  During the summer months our membership drops as families go on vacation or spend weekends at trailer or cottages.  This yearly event provides the opportunity for us to gather with other Mennonite congregations, like at the Chapel.

Charles Swartwood of Bethel Pentecostal Church in Stratford Ontario was preaching today.  He started his sermon by drawing attention to the fact that the last week of August at Chesley Lake is like a family reunion.  The same families come gather this week year after year and celebration the end of summer vacation.  They arrive awkward with each other but quickly find old connections from previous summers and form a large extended family.
The Swartwoods as taken from the Bethel Pentecostal Church
At family reunions we arrive as strangers and as soon as we find the connection that binds us together – the person from whom we all are descended we know we belong: we are a member.

Family reunions appear to have all but disappeared within the extended family systems that I and Paul belong too.  Why is that?  More importantly what is the unintended consequences for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren?

At the picnic lunch that followed the service I continued to ponder this question and one answer presented itself over dessert.  

 This blog came up in a discussion, Marg. questioned if she had stories from her childhood to pass on to her children and grandchildren.   

Faulty memory, being the youngest in a large family were provided as reasons for this lack of personal stories. 

I wonder if  the absence of family reunions we are no longer hearing stories about ourselves and our histories.  We are no longer active participants in the creation of oral family history. 

How do we know ourselves?   


We have our unique memories yet these are flat and without the depth and colour that is created within the context of shared memories.    

Your Cousin: “Do you remember when Uncle George did……..”

You: “Yes and you laughed so hard that ……”

Your Cousin: “Oh you are right I forgot that and you thought…..” and so on.   

In the experience of sharing two single memories of a single shared experience.  Both the memory and the story have been enriched can you imagine how much richer the memory and family story will be when Uncle George adds his memories.


I am because I belong
I know that I belong because I remember
I remember because I participate in the creation of shared memory.
Personal and Family Stories Passed down from one generation to the next.
Marjorie Snyder 


Family reunions play a key role in this process of sharing, and shaping personal and family stories.  I know the story behind this picture not because I remember but because others remembered for me.
Fishing with my Father and Grandpa at Chesley Lake Ontario.



Marg talked about a unique and life affirming tradition that her son Brian has started with his family.  After the bed time story has been read and before the goodnight kiss as parents they tell their children a story from their childhood.
 
The Swartz' extended family three generations and they are part of my story as well.
We all have one bestselling story in us, the story of our lived experiences.  It is important that as Grandparents we take the time to either write down these experiences and/or to tell them to our children and grandchildren.  That we give them the building blocks that they need to form their own identities within the context of an extended family history.
 
Port Elgin August 25, 2013


Grandma Snyder

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