On my way to work this morning, I was reminiscing. I grew up in Los Angeles, California, so I was far away from my extended family until I was 22 years old. We came to Oklahoma about 3-4 times prior to that. My first memory of Family Reunion was at Fiddlers Bend as a 14-year old. We had the best time! The teenagers and tweenagers stayed up half the night in a large house and enjoyed visiting—because that’s the only time we were all together. It’s easy for a kid to come to reunion—they don’t have to worry about a thing. Mom and Dad take care of it all. After I moved to Oklahoma in 1974, I have enjoyed many reunions at Camp Lutherhoma. It grew a little stale, because getting food, bedding, and everything ready to go when you’re a full-time working mother is hard. (In addition, most of the people at reunion were those that I saw regularly at church in Sperry.) However, I made the effort year after year, because it was important to me—and most of all, it was important to my Mother.
The first year that I came to Camp Lutherhoma, some played softball, and the rest of us cheered them on. That night in our cabin, Charlie spoke out in the darkness, “I must have about 30 chigger bites between my knees and my ankles.” That did it. The Martens family began to scratch and count chigger bites in the darkness of our cabin. That year Sue and Janice paddled over to the other side of the Illinois River holding on to a rubber floatie. They were doing fine until they encountered a snake and were too frozen with fear to paddle their feet and make it back. None of the women that were swimming were brave enough to tow them back to shore. We had to call in the rescue squad! Then there was the dinner bell that the kids always rang. One year it was full of bees, and some of the kids got stung. There was always the big fight–fighting over whose turn it was to swim in the pool.
Ruth Marrs and Orpha Briggs would get up early in the morning and cook eggs, bacon, biscuits, and make gravy for those who got up in time for breakfast! Early rising isn’t in fashion any more, but it was good to see some breakfast still hanging around when I got there at 10 AM on Saturday morning. We ate at the motel in Tahlequah, but thanks to whoever continued that tradition!
My daughter, Sondra Clark, has had the privilege of attending many Reunions and has thoroughly enjoyed them. Stephanie, Sondra, Heather, and Gaylyna were cohorts. (Unfortunately this year Sondra was unable to attend, because my granddaughter, Allison, started kindergarten last Wednesday.) Sondra has two not-so-pleasant memories. One is when she was playing Marco Polo and ran into the side of the pool. Her front tooth broke off close to the gum. We saved the tooth, it was bonded on, and has stayed to this day. Another unpleasant memory is when a bottle rocket went through the sleeve of her brand new purple bath robe as she was leaving the pool. (It seems as though some of the boys were extra anxious to run the girls out of the pool so that they could swim.) Grandma Martens saved the day by cutting the sleeve down from full to ¾ to salvage the robe. Sondra has many happy memories to offset these memories. (In fact, I think she can actually laugh about the bottle rocket now.)
The last couple of years at Reunion I’ve thought about the newest Jones generation. What are they going to face in life? I see the younger kids playing together, and it reminds me of not only times past, but of the future. “A baby is God’s way of saying that the world must go on.”
Last year I watched as Allison played with her contemporaries—Gaylyna’s and Stephanie’s girls. It amused me to view their similarities (and differences) to each other and to their parents (and grandparents). Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of the past in their physical features, their facial expressions, their mannerisms, and their personalities. You know, we’re all different, yet we all have at least kinship in common. Would that we could become as little children, set aside any differences and just enjoy the opportunity to be together for a few hours.
When I look at the large picture of the Dexter Jones Clan that was taken when I was 4-5 years old (before the death of Granddad and Grandma Jones), I think of what my Mother (Rachel Jones Martens) told me. She said that Grandma Jones knew that would be the last time that the family would be all together and that she specifically asked the family to be sure and stay together and have reunions. We can’t all make it every year, but let’s try to attend when we can. Attendance for some may be harder than for others. Those who have heavy workloads and tight schedules might have to put the date on your calendar now and make a commitment to set aside other demands on your time for at least one day. For others who live out of state, it might mean a commitment of 4-5 days to include travel time. For a few, it may mean tightening the belt a little and using more coupons for groceries or saving change all year—all with the goal of making it to reunion.
We have such a wonderful heritage. Our spiritual heritage and the solidness of our roots are far greater legacies than inheriting money. Our background gives us a spiritual legacy that we should all build upon. Being a part of the family of God gives us eternal life and a longing for heaven so that we can see Him face to face. Being a part of this great earthly family gives us a sense of belonging and a network of relatives to support us on earth until God calls us home. We grieve together when one of us dies, and we rejoice together as another life enters the Jones family. The longer I live, the more I realize the importance of family. Jobs come and go, neighbors come and go, money comes and goes, but the family helps hold us together here on earth! We turn to our family during births, deaths, and the crises that come to all of us.
Let’s revive our closeness. Through modern technology, we can do it through posting stories and pictures to the website and through email communications. We can see each other by attending the annual Family Reunion and the Thanksgiving get together whenever possible. An old-fashioned phone call or letter would be great for those who have the time. (Which reminds me to thank those of you who have been keeping in touch with Mom and Dad.)