Monday, June 3, 2013

Reflections on family

Angie, Courtney, Mandy (niece), Mary (me), Riley (niece), and Lee
The whole family (at the time), including
our paternal grandmother and a cousin, in the 1960's.
The youngest sister, Jeanne, wasn't born yet.
Some of my sisters and I drove to Mobile for my uncle's funeral service.  I have seven sisters and getting a chance to visit with them all is very difficult, especially since only half of us live in Louisiana.  The other four live in North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Arizona--a bit spread out for family reunions.  Getting a couple of us together becomes a big event, and five of us were in Mobile for two days.  Add a few cousins to the mix and the gathering became a mini-family reunion.  
Laura and her girls in TN
Our family honors a death by celebrating life.  It's part of our Cajun heritage, and any type of gathering, including funerals, generally includes food, stories, and laughter.  Although we did not have a wake service for my uncle, we did all gather at my aunt's house to visit.  Her daughters made spaghetti and we brought cakes for dessert.  Before I realized it, hours had passed and it seemed that we could have used a few more.  

Angie as the Southern Belle because she's wearing my hat.
I can't wait till she sees this pic.
After we got back to our hotel, I began thinking about how we can go a year or two without seeing some of our cousins, yet we go back to the familiar customs and traditions that our family holds so dear.  Our informal gathering included only one person from my dad's generation, yet every member of the three generations who were present joined in the sometimes solemn, sometimes joyful discussions; knew appropriate ways of helping to deal with the heartache and joy; and added to the healing and sense of family.  
Lee and her daughter Mandy at Ft. Conde
 Some of these second and third cousins met for the first time on Friday; others met again after years of separation.  Isn't it interesting how humans just know?  How we have both a sense of self and a sense of others?  How we share the same customs, traditions and values as though they are built into our DNA?  

Another picture in Mobile:
Courtney, Mandy, Mary, Riley, Laura, Lee
I realize that all families do this.  Still, I'm amazed every time it occurs to me personally.  I studied a bit of folklore and psychology in college, and together those classes helped me to observe family and group dynamics, to understand customs and to appreciate traditions.  Now it seems I can't help myself and it amazes me every time.

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