One of the best summertime pleasures is the annual family reunion. There is nothing as heart-warming as getting together with kinfolk and friends who have their roots in the same common soil. Many of us grew up together and share the memories of long-ago people and places.
This time of year the pink and red rambler roses drape over fence posts and road banks, with their remembered scent of childhood past. The tiny pink wild rose, called the Virginia rose, is blooming now in secluded places. Its delicate and sweet-perfumed petals are fragile, and as fleeting as its life span, here for such a short time.
They always remind me of Grandma O’Dell, for it was her favorite wild flower. Sometimes I wonder about the traits she may have handed down to me, things of which I am not even aware. My love for herbs and wild flowers surely came from her, for she was versed in herbal lore and medicinal herbs. Family reunions bring descendents together who share the same heritage. I regret that she passed away when I was seven years old, for there were so many things she could have taught me in later years.
When the rhododendrons are blooming in the hills, with huge clusters of waxy pink and white blossoms, and the whippoorwill sings its lonesome twilight song, there is a longing in the hearts of those who have wandered far away from the hills to come home again. Whether it is for one day or longer, the hills and hollers pull on the heartstrings of their children to return.
Family reunions have been a tradition in the hills for as long as I can remember. They are reminiscent of the old time quilting parties, barn raisin’s, and corn huskin’s—also molasses making, which is still done today. Neighbors got together and shared work, while having a good time. The fellowship bound them closer to one another, and the noonday meal was provided by the women folk.
These social occasions were necessary when folks lived miles apart, and were isolated from their neighbors most of the time. It was an opportunity to catch up on the latest news, give the younger ones a chance to romp and play together, and most of all show genuine love and concern for one another.
The family reunions of today bind folks closer together. With many relatives scattered in other states, we meet together to reaffirm our family ties, and to express our love for one another. There is a deep urgency in the souls of those who have left the hills to return and connect to their roots.
Our Samples family reunion started many years ago when Grandpa Samples daughters began to get together at his home on Father’s Day. He had 11 children, seven of whom were girls. When he grew old, he asked them to continue this tradition. “After I am dead and gone,” he said, “I want you to still get together.”
The reunion shifted to the family cemetery after he died, and it was an idyllic place for the family to gather. Towering trees encircled the cemetery, which was covered with soft moss. The rhododendrons and mountain laurel were always in bloom, and the footpath led through the woods to the gathering place.
Some of the best times of my childhood were spent at our family reunions. It was such a thrill to get together with the numerous cousins. There is a special relationship among cousins. Springing from a common stock, many of us inherit the same traits and mannerisms, as well as a marked resemblance in looks.
There were cousins that we grew up with; together we hoed corn, picked blackberries, attended school, and sometimes bickered like brothers and sisters. Then there were cousins that we saw less frequently, not as familiar but loved nevertheless. A few cousins we saw only at reunion time, and how eagerly we looked forward to meeting them! (It is still like that.)
The descendents of Abner Jehu Samples (Grandpa Hooge) met together this year at Coonskin Park at Charleston. There were more than 150 in attendance, and all agreed that it was a lovely time together. It was an ideal place, with a playground for the younger ones, and a convenient shelter for all. Memories were recalled, laughter and a few tears followed, with warm hugs and kisses melding our hearts together.
God showered His approval upon the institution of the family, and blesses abundantly those who walk in His ways in perfect obedience. Families who unite together through joys and heartaches are truly blessed. Reunions are a perfect way to stay together.
My mother, Delphia Samples O’Dell, at past 89 years of age, is the last living child of Grandpa Hooge. She was in attendance this year, and enjoyed herself immensely. As the older generation passes on, we need to keep the tradition alive of meeting together as a family.
Independence Day and picnics and watermelon and family reunions—I hope they go on forever.
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