Updated: May 25, 2022
We had some extraordinary Family gatherings when I was a kid.
Akron was the epicenter, we still lived on the Hill, but most all other relatives had moved, to surrounding cities and suburbs, some even further away. We had aunts and uncles coming from Barberton, Uniontown, Green Twp., Toledo, Cleveland, Toledo, and even Ann Arbor, MI.
Everyone returned to the family home, Grand Ma and Grand Pa Rodeman, my grandparents were the oldest of all their siblings, so it was only natural for them to bring everyone together, possibly out of respect, more probably because they had the latest gossip on all the other relatives.
Yes, there was life before Facebook, and texting and instant messaging.
The closest thing we had was the latest fad, a year in review Christmas Letter, showing all the cousins, 2nd Aunts, new babies, family pets. This was the beginnings of the ugly sweater phenomenon, with every body in matching plaid or reindeer sweaters, which made them hard to recognize in summer attire of shorts and tees.
Much planning went into these annual events, it would start right after holidays, sometimes it might even begin over the required meal to begin the new year, Pork and sauerkraut.
After much discussion and re-arranging of schedules, a date would be
Back then it was a first come, first serve, system. We had the perfect bouncer. My Uncle Jerry was a very persuasive 6 foot 5 inch tall Freshman at Akron U, so he would arrive very early and explain to anybody sniffing around that his Fraternity was throwing a big party here today, so they should probably move further down the park. I’m not sure of other year solutions, but it seemed we always had the run of our chosen area.
The gathering of the tribes amounted to usually 87 or so warm bodies, seating with groups you had not seen in ages, all sharing and about 40 different picnic foods. I’m sure you all had Deviled eggs, gelatin molds with some unknown vegetables in a few of them.
How many different kinds of baked beans do you remember, some came straight from the Campbells can, others soaked the beans for a day and then baked them with love and secret spices, you either loved them or hated them. Potato chips came in large tins, everything was cling wrapped, wax papered, or tin foiled within an inch of its life.
Hot dogs and hamburgers were the main course, I don’t remember much chicken and we didn’t like anybody well enough to offer steak. These delicacies were all cooked on the permanent charcoal grill stands provided by the park.
We definitely needed the room for all the activities going on. At least 2 badminton nets set up, a makeshift softball field for the heartier folks, and lawn darts because they were fun, and we lived. Somebody usually had a football for a game of “Go Long”. And just as Night was creeping in, out would come the sparklers and the fireflies.
We poked holes in the empty pickle jar lids, and a secret known only to kids was that fireflies liked grass, so we put some inside so they could perch and glow until we had to release them and head home. We probably had a better time than the fireflies.
Over the food and the catching up, many senseless feuds were defused, and I’m sure some rekindled over somebody stealing a recipe, or a forgotten thank you note.
A good time was had by all
Plans were made for the rest of Summer vacation with visits to county cousins, and I mean that literally, the best fun for a city kid was visiting my cousins Tommy and Sharon who lived in the Uniontown area. They had a Horse named Shadow, a tree house that really looked like a house, and a pond to chase tadpoles and 5 acres that backed up to a wood.
Here is a great memory tip
Writing this story brought back a flood of memories of the best kind. One thing I need to tell all of you, we always set up a tape recorder at the dessert portion of the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner tables, it was perfect to record for posterity Aunt Teenie’s argument with her sister Kate about nothing at all. Today you might use a phone or other electronic device, just make sure it can run for a few hours.
Everybody chiming in, again, talking about nothing in particular, but you can listen to their voices, through all these years. For me, best of all, my Mom who passed in 2006 arguing with her long passed Sister, Absolutely priceless. Please consider this at you next gatherings, just remember to record. You are smack dab in the middle of the moment, without distractions, and you can listen always. Set up recording camera in the corner, just so you are not distracted by your gadgets. Home movies old school. I can’t live a moment if I’m looking thru my phone.
That was then, this is now.
And this is how these shindigs come together nowadays. You begin with a blast on Facebook, so everyone is on board, then maybe a group zoom call to the go to organizers, pick the date, make specific food assignments, call the caterer, Google some home made recipes, and feel happy about your organizational skills, then take your Ambien and sleep happy because it is done.
Tomorrow you check FB and everybody is complaining, who put you in charge, why can’t I make the dairy free hummus, did anybody check for nut or shellfish allergies, Are we doing veggie platters with vegan cheese? Should we just get some KFC buckets with sides, I really am not good with charcoal, can you guys bring your big gas grill? Somebody will decide we must have personalized T-shirts for everybody announcing the Fuddruckers Family Reunion. Now that lawn darts have been recalled, only to be replaced with various cornhole games, transistor radio am stations now becomes, Amazon Music, BT wireless speakers, personalized playlists, and tennis shoes morphed into crocs, sandals, an old school flipflops.
I wish I could return to those bygone days, and bring some things with me from today. Coolers, IPA beers in stead of Schlitz, Char-broil infrared grills, folding canvas chairs with cup holders, foam can sleeves for my Coors beer that is telling me that it is at the optimal temperature.
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