Every five years since 1975 my parental family has got together for a few days somewhere in the United States. At the first gathering, dubbed a "Quinquennial" (which means every five years, but you probably knew that) by my oldest brother who convened the gathering, there were thirty-nine of us. Our father had died in 1967, but mother was around for the first three of our quinquennials and died just as the family was gathering for the fourth. At the last such gathering two weeks ago, there were over eighty of us, spread over three of the four surviving generations (the great-great grandchildren didn't make it this time).
I know everybody has a family, at least in their past if not in their present, and some have deep, persistent, regular contact among themselves. We do not have that. So every five years we come from nine different states and one province from Kentucky on the east to California on the west, to Manitoba on the north. The great distances and time intervals means that we do not watch the children develop — we see them in finished stages. There is a bunch of them who are now around twelve. We saw them when they were seven. We'll see them again when they are seventeen — if they are free to get to the reunion then, and still want to.
This year there were twenty-five children twelve and under, who seemed to having as good a time as the rest of us — though I am sure some of them could not put their second cousins with their respective grandpas. And why should they? They were there as themselves, not as our adjuncts.
Of course we depend on the willing, organizing types among us to make it happen. Many of these have married in. Their children carry our genetic inheritance, but they don't. We seem to know whom to marry, and to like other people's wives and husbands and they to like us.
By God's grace, we have the right mix for a reunion like ours, where there things to do if you want to, and not to do if you don't want to. We recognize also that enough of us can afford to make ourselves afford it, an impossibility in many extended families. We are socially healthy enough to leave each other alone at the tender points where we want to be left alone.
What do we do? Not much that would interest other families. We talk, we play games, have a few large group activities, and look at pictures. This year we had an auction of donated items, with the proceeds going toward planning the next reunion in 2010.
I don't expect you to be excited by my family and the boring things we do.
I encourage you to be excited by your own, though.