Being with family

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It was our first real date. Sure we had been together in groups before, but this would be the first night we had been alone. Her parents would be out for the evening, and even though we were staying at her home, I was a bit nervous.

She greeted me at the door. I grinned at her as her parents quickly left. We decided to take a long walk. I held her hand as dusk turned to dark. I pointed to the stars, and we looked wide-eyed at the great big sky.

I talked excitedly about the future and told her I loved her several times during that one walk.

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We ate when we got back to the house and turned on the ballgame that we planned to watch. I held her hand and she put her head on my shoulder. Before long she was asleep.

It was my first time to keep my eight-week-old granddaughter, Laura, by myself. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. In fact, I arrived 30 minutes early.

Her parents said she would likely get fussy around 7, but that never came. She drank almost all her bottle, burped twice like a champ, and didn’t cry until it was time to go to bed.

I only had to change one diaper. As I was putting the second diaper on she decided she wasn’t through. As I put the third diaper on I realized she still wasn’t through, so I quickly slipped diaper No. 2 back under her. By then I was laughing, and I think she was too.

I sang an impromptu song to her as she fought going to sleep, and within minutes she was gone for good. I held her tight for a while, rocking her, and then put her in her crib.

I think her parents were relieved it went so well. I wasn’t surprised at all. She has been nearly perfect the first two months of her life. I was just happy the new parents trusted Granddaddy to keep a two-month-old by himself.

The very next day all my cousins from my Dad’s side came pouring into town. Every descendant of Daniel Ephriam and Florette Roberts Ponder was there except two great-grandchildren and a grandson-in-law.

It was planned around Swamp Gravy, the folklife play in Colquitt, which never disappoints. The theme song, “We all have a story to tell,” seemed so appropriate for this weekend. All we did was tell stories.

We sat around reading some of my earlier articles about family. Each one would lead to a few stories about that time or person in our past. We occasionally had conflicting memories about the same incident, but that’s not surprising given how much time has passed.

We especially told stories about “Granny” Ponder, the common person in all of our backgrounds. She has now been dead for many years, but her memory was alive all weekend long. Stories were told about my grandfather, “Pinkie,” who has been dead 54 years. Only my Mother and Aunt could tell those stories.

Great stories were told of father. It is interesting to hear the stories from my childhood as seen though the eyes of my cousins.

Most of us have memories of family reunions. Some are held the same time every year. Some feature nothing more than tons of food and visiting. Others are more elaborate with a theme, T-shirts and multi-day activities.

The Ponder family on my wife’s side has held a reunion since long before we were married. It is called the cousin’s reunion, since the 10 children of Mary Lou’s great-grandparents are long gone. It is so big the last one we attended was held in a high school lunchroom.

Our reunion this year also revolved around food. On several occasions, there were 19 people in our kitchen. There is just something about the connection between a family and the kitchen.

After only one day of reflection, I was trying to figure out why this reunion went so well. Even the younger generations that didn’t really know each other that well seemed to genuinely enjoy the company of each other.

I finally decided that while this part of our family is anchored by our past and our roots, we are living in the present and interested in each other’s future. This was a living family reunion, whose attendees from five states thoroughly enjoyed each other. They all gave one of the rarest of gifts to each other. The gift of time out of their busy lives.

Granny and Daddy and all those that went before us would have been proud.