Family Gatherings


I am well-supplied with sisters and one of them had a “milestone” birthday so her two daughters held a party at which cousins from far and wide, of various levels of connection turned up to wave the family flag and wish my sister well.

One of the interesting things is there were quite a decent number of second cousins there, which means the significant parents, the couple whose union was the common event which linked us all, are three generations back from the birth of the newest generation, if I have not explained that too obscurely. Life being what it is, or life expectancy certainly, the relevant couple are no longer with us, and are largely unknown by reputation or image to a large number of people who the gathered for the party, yet that very gathering would not have been as it was without said union, of unknown quality, which was either enjoyed or suffered  by this long dead couple.

Some may believe that they peer down on us from their favourite cloud sipping tea from a replica set of their favourite china and smiling benignly at this echo of themselves seen in so many lives and experiences: it is remarkable thought to me. I saw and chatted with a cousin I have probably seen about four times in my life and yet there was something of the family culture about her. We nodded across the divide, as it were, and acknowledged our joint routes to this place.

With her was her daughter, who I did not know existed until this weekend, and I was able to recall her great-grandfather and tell her about some of the pleasing eccentricities which made him the curious and charming man he was. He died before this young lady was born, but here he is in her, so to speak, as well as her grandmother and the great great grandparents of whom I speak.

It was sobering, moving and faintly magical to see in the movement of a hand or the quality of manner, those little signs which make us family and joint descendants of this long-gone couple. Their issue now live in a large variety of lifestyles and circumstance but somehow you can see a commonality about us all.

It is both moving and curious and makes me think, as an apprentice grandfather, if in a hundred years there may be another gathering at which a decent crowd of people gather, and they might recollect the mannerisms and people who spawned them as I sit uncertainly on my cloud sipping at my tea.

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About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, childhood, community, creative writing, Environment, faith, Life, old age, Peter Wells, Relationships, Uncategorized, values and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Family Gatherings

  1. I love your closing thought, Peter. It is quite remarkable how those common little traits begin to materialise as generations grow older. This is very acutely observed – an enjoyable read.

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  2. Do you take your tea light, Peter?

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  3. renxkyoko says:

    I have been to at least 3 huge gatherings of relatives ( in the Philippines ). Since I grew up here in the US, these reunions were where I first met people whom I share the same DNA’s with. It’s strange though that I didn’t see any physical similarities with them. My mother noticed that too. We reckoned it was because relatives on my maternal side of the family weren’t there. ( my mother’s mother’s side of the family, I mean ) My mother looks like her relatives from her mother’s side, and they weren’t there.

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  4. Do you think your name would come up at that gathering 100 years from now? What do you think they’ll say? All good I hope!

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  5. genusrosa says:

    The strange implications of sharing a resemblance with someone who is dead first came home to me when I was about four years old, and the comment was made that I looked like ‘Great Aunt Bertha’, grandpa’s ‘long gone’ sister. I never forgot that, and family ‘commonalities’ as you put it so nicely, have fascinated me ever since. It boils down to: if you have your grandma’s nose, where did she get it? If you have your Great Aunt Bertha’s light blue eyes, where did Great Aunt Bertha acquire them? And back and back you go…until we come to a point where the entire human family is linked with common ancestries. Which makes war and prejudice the ugliest sort of sibling rivalries that ever were. Drinking tea from heavenly china sounds nice, though–with my feet preferably on terra firma. :o)

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  6. Al says:

    If yours is anything like my family, the first thing you will hear is “Hey you, get off of my cloud!” (with apologies to the Rolling Stones).

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  7. Family gatherings such as that could be good hunting grounds for mates. I know–that’s a tad off base, but I’ve been watching the gazillion-part Roosevelt series on TV. FDR married a distant cousin. Not sure what else to say about that.

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  8. I have been thinking about this very subject today as my last remaining uncle, of whom I was immensely fond, died this morning and I’ve been gazing at the photos my cousins have put on FB. This passing down of a look or a trait is something I find rather comforting.

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  9. My family is so scattered spacially now that we don’t get together any more. I think it needed the anchor of a strong matriarch or patriarch to rope everybody in. I was brought up surrounded by ‘cousins’ and ‘aunties and uncles’ some of whom had only a tenuous family connection. The old folks would spend the greater part of any family reunion chewing the fat over what so and so’s son/daughter was up to, and the cousins of thingy who married a whatever and lives in wherever. The generation who could keep the strings of all the family connections together seems to have gone. The nuclear family is the bane of modern existence. One of them anyway.

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    • At the time, no one mentioned the couple who were the reason for us all being in the same room as they died before I was born, and it was only my own strange musings which brought them to mind. I never met the couple myself, and yet because of them and their marriage, here we all were. These gatherings happen once in a decade in our family, if that, so it made the meeting all the more remarkable.

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  10. Beautiful, moving and funny Peter. You at your very best I feel. 😊 I love the ending, it evoked a wry smile 😊

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  11. Peter, you simply have an amazing way of telling a story. This was simply beautiful and wonderful

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  12. gotham girl says:

    beautifully shared!

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  13. elainecanham says:

    I get that feeling too, when I meet my rellies. The wierdest thing, as you say, is family resemblance. My brother’s grandson looks exactly like our dad, pictured at that age.

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  14. Lady E says:

    This story made me reflect on the great sense of belonging a family can give, and how the long dead keep on living through their descendants. The thought is somehow so comforting… xx

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  15. L O V E L Y. xxxxxxxxx

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  16. r e douville says:

    Love the contemplation. History draws me in, not just the stuff people think we should learn, but personal history, the stuff we all too often ignore. It’s nice to reflect on those that came before.

    If you’ve never seen the film ‘Gangs of New York’ the final two minutes are as powerful as I’ve ever seen in capturing the passage of time and how the stories of those who once live fade. You can find the scene in a google search.

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  17. araneus1 says:

    Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’m amazingly ambivalent about being a grandparent. Maybe it has something to do with rarely seeing them up close. I watch them grow through a diminishing number of photographs and the occasional video. I thought the ambivalence would wear off after a time, but it hasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that they are on this planet and I take some joy from knowing that they are running around somewhere but I seem to lack the requisite level of enthusiasm that is expected from every grandfather. It makes me feel a little strange, but that’s the way it is, I guess.
    Terry

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  18. meandcoffeefairy says:

    Recently I wrote a post on my great great grandma, who was born on my birthday just 98 years before me. I have always realized that I carried certain family traits, just not the physical but the spiritual as well. In her honor, I believe I spoke for her, as you say, she was sitting in a rocking chair on a porch up above and watching my performance of being her.

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