Sally Ann Shurmur: When It Comes To Reunions, Is It Go Or No?

Columnist Sally Ann Shurmur writes, "We aren’t a reunion family. So when they come later in life, is it a fun, new idea or something to be dreaded?

Sally Ann Shurmur

June 27, 20244 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

We aren’t a reunion family.

So when they come later in life, is it a fun, new idea or something to be dreaded?

My mom’s dad was the second oldest of 12, 10 boys and two girls. Thanks to one of her cousins, I have smidges of information, and treasure the little I have.

Mom’s Grandpap was born Dec. 25, 1876, and her Grandma, Feb. 16, 1887. They were married May 30, 1903.

There was a 26-year gap between their oldest and youngest child.

Mom has 28 first cousins and she, at almost 93, is the second oldest of those. Her deceased brother was the oldest. The youngest few are younger than I am.

Mom’s cousins started having reunions in Pennsylvania some time after her dad died in 1982.

I have photos of Mom, with her Mom and brother and sister-in-law at what might have been the first one.

After Mom was the only one of those four left, my brother went with her and so did my sister. She always wanted me to go, but I had the job and the kids and Pennsylvania is not exactly around the corner.

So I never went and I deeply regret it.

One of her cousins communicates with Mom through me, because email is the way for most (not all) of us these days.

They just had their reunion and there were 19 total, spouses and children included.

The photos on my wall are of a much larger group.

I think spurred on by her cousins’ reunion, Mom worked for over a year planning a one-day reunion for my Shurmur cousins. There are only nine of us, but getting us together was unbelievably difficult.

In the end, it happened in 2008, and has never happened again. The only people not there were my son and my boyfriend, both because of work.

Mom cooked for weeks and there was enough food for 300, instead of the 32 who were there.

She paid a fortune for a professional photographer to come, and was not happy with the results.

In the evening, there were s’mores at the fire pit on the beach, and then everyone left for hotels or the drive back to Milwaukee, where one of my cousins lived at the time.

She desperately wanted someone to do another reunion, and although most of us were at my cousin’s wedding a year later in Michigan, another “reunion” has never happened.

In two weeks, we will go to my 50th high school reunion. I found out yesterday that my bestie is not coming, and I am sad.

She was my bridge to all of the other girls who let me hang out with them. I was the loud, clumsy one with the big station wagon that fit 11 if we squished. I wasn’t a cheerleader and couldn’t get a date.

But now I have the best date, and he is begrudgingly coming along. It will be his third reunion of mine.

In September, my Pi Phi’s are reunioning in Cheyenne and Laramie. We are staying in Cheyenne to avoid price gouging in Laradise for the BYU game.

Happy Hour and tailgating are at the top of the agenda, and I am really looking forward to that.

For years, I have read about reunions that are a constant in people’s lives, with color-coded T-shirts denoting each branch of the tree, meal preparation planned months in advance, and compounds large enough for the whole clan to stay together.

In our misfit bunch, that never happened, although Mom and her cousins gave it their best effort.

My suggestion is this. If you have one aunt or uncle and even one cousin, make the time to spend the time.

It may be awkward at first, and it may be something you are not the least bit interested in, but we all come from somewhere.

And those connections should not be ignored because of work or time or distance.

Now pass the macaroni salad.

Sally Ann Shurmur can be reached at:

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Sally Ann Shurmur