Sinclaire Sparkman: Don’t fear the family reunion

Sinclaire Sparkman • Updated Sep 22, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Most of us don’t get too excited about going to a family reunion, but I found myself wondering why as I drove home from the gathering of my maternal grandmother’s side of the family during Labor Day weekend.

We gathered on the top of a mountain at the picturesque Pine Mountain State Park in Pineville, Kentucky. I don’t think I passed much civilization after getting off Interstate 40 near Knoxville and winding through back roads for the entire second half of the journey. I kept a sharp ear out for banjos when I made a pit stop at the only store for miles around, but I returned to my car unscathed and arrived at the resort Saturday evening with just enough time to unload my car before dinner. 

I’ll admit, going in I expected all the typical questions like ‘when are you getting married?’ and ‘why do you work for something called The Democrat?’ to be asked multiple times. I expected hours of embarrassing stories and boredom galore. None of that happened. Well, OK, there was one embarrassing story that involved me modeling my grandfather’s animal “discipline,” but at least young me followed it up with a kiss to the poor dog’s head. Apparently, I was a smart child. 

One of the best things about a family reunion is walking into a room full of people who love you. They have to, after all. You’re family. A number of them might even like you, too. I happily received hugs from probably 20 people before dinner was served. So we ate, and we talked, and we tried to guess whom the random child was in the worn photograph that flashed up during the slideshow. I even learned what an old school clicker slide projector looked like. My dad got a kick out of that one when I asked him what it was. I was actually having fun, believe it or not.

There was a seemingly endless round of picture taking after dinner. First, a picture of everyone is taken; then, we split up by branches of the family; then, first cousins, second cousins, grandmothers, first generation, second generation, generations once removed, grandfathers, spouses, children, interests, pets and whatever other category we could think to split up into for a snapshot memory.

We heard a special presentation about personality types from my mother, a useful thing when hanging out with family. I learned that I am a squiggle, and my mother is a square. One might also be a circle or a triangle or perhaps a combination of shapes.

Cabins provided us with a space for all kinds of merrymaking, including the freedom to stay up well into the night without reprimand for the noise.

On Sunday, we hiked to the premier attraction of Pineville, the Chained Rock. It’s a huge chain stretched across two rock outcroppings on the top of the mountain, supposedly to keep the boulder that looms over the town from falling onto those below. The trail isn’t too long, probably less than half a mile, and the view is worth it. My 90-year-old aunt even made it up the trail, which includes stairs and rocky terrain. I hope that means I have good genes.

By the time I checked out of my room Monday, I was sad to bid them farewell. How silly it is to dread such a thing as a family reunion.

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