My initial impressions of the day focus on three salient themes:
THEME ONE: "WEATHERING THE STORMS": With voice recorder at hand, I began with my niece. As the event was scheduled outside-and there were rain showers in the morning, which were predicted to last- she commented on how several of us began our morning wondering/texting each other if we should cancel, postpone it, move it to an indoor locale, or take a chance and keep it as is, since food, reservation, and plans had been made. She explained how we moved forward with it, and sun was finally shining and we're together enjoying. No doubt, many of us have weathered the storms of life-and family life- acknowledged them, moved through them and experience Light, calm and clement weather, understanding that there will be another storm-perhaps too soon- but at the end of the day, we have family to come together, to be there, and to break bread with...Lots of it.
THEME TWO: FOOD: How is it that some of us from the younger generation (and we're not so young) were wondering if there would be enough food? For us, a potluck means bringing/buying one dish or so. As families arrived with these extra large dishes/pots/trays, on average 2-3 dishes each family, we laughed thinking that we actually entertained a moment of doubt. It was beautiful to see how much pride they took in the preparations of food, which to me was a total expression of love. It was also interesting to recognize how my palate reawakened memories as one food in particular, I had not had in over a decade: My mother used to make it and it was one of my favorites.
THEME THREE: LOVE OF COUNTRY: Our area was decorated with American flags and red/white and blue table cloths. I first thought that my niece was recycling Fourth of July decorations, but upon further reflection it was apropos of family experience: While I can (and do) deconstruct the "American exceptionalism" narrative, I see that our family-many of whom are first generation immigrants- are grateful for this country (as I am) and have keen awareness of how it extended economic, political, religious and social freedoms beyond anything they/we could imagine in the countries of their birth.
I began and ended the voice recording with my niece,( i.e., I did't record anyone else). I imagine at another reunion, I can gather the oral histories of family life. For today, I was grateful to be with them, take it all in, and have the experiences "recorded" in the feelings, food, fun, and gratitude I was attuned to. When the next storm hits-especially if it involves family-may these moments come to mind.
Indeed, memory, too, can be a choice. It is in the personal and/or collective stories we tell about the memory, which can impact the way we feel, the way others feel around us and how events are re-remembered for generations and generations to come.