Sunday, April 26, 2009

Surprise Visit for a 50th Anniversary

I grew up in a family that stayed connected with extended family members by visiting my relatives' houses regularly for birthdays and anniversaries, by attending my cousins' confirmations and graduations and weddings, by attending my aunts' and uncles' and great-aunts' and great-uncles' funerals, etc. My dad is one of six children, and my mom was one of eight, so I have a lot of cousins. And because I'm the youngest cousin on one side and among the youngest on the other, many of my cousins had children whom I got to know while I was still a kid myself.

On my dad's side, we still get together occasionally, especially for weddings, funerals, and some holidays (and for my cousins' kids' graduations, when the drive isn't too great). On Mom's side, though, it's pretty rare these days. She seemed to be the instigator of get-togethers amongst her siblings, and nobody has stepped up to plan the occasional reunion since Mom died eight years ago. My cousins are spread around the country, busy with their own families (at nearly 40, I'm the youngest cousin--so imagine the ages of my cousins' kids--and grandkids--and how busy their own lives must be!), so it would take some deliberate planning to gather everybody in one spot at the same time. I understand what keeps us apart, but I miss getting together.

So, when I learned that my cousin Jill was throwing a party today in Minot, ND for the 50th anniversary of her parents, Betty and Herman (my mom's oldest brother), I knew that we should attend. Jill is close in age to my sisters and made for a good playmate when we'd get together. Betty is a gentle lady who always fed us well when we'd spend holidays at their house; I especially recall her bundt cake, riced potatoes, and flatbread. Herman liked to tease gently, but he always seemed interested in my school accomplishments and proud of me, reminding me with a smile on each visit, "Remember, I'm your favorite uncle." We were pleased to be able to be at their party this afternoon!

The girls had to sing for church in Dickinson, but we left immediately afterward and arrived an hour into the party held at Herman and Betty's church in Minot. We hadn't told anyone that we'd be coming, so the relatives whom we saw were surprised to see us! There was much ooh-ing and aah-ing over how much everybody had changed since the last time we had seen one another--and, of course, some of them had never even met our children before today. We made sure to take lots of photos and to visit quickly before the party wrapped up and people started heading home. We spent six hours (round-trip) on the road for probably one-and-a-half hours of interaction with relatives, but it was worth it!

Afterward we did a little clothes shopping at the Dakota Square before eating supper at the Royal Fork and then heading back to Dickinson. I'm usually the chauffeur, but Susan drove for this trip so that I could get some work done on the laptop for a meeting first thing tomorrow morning. (Thank you, Susan.) But now it's time to get to what most of you have come here for: the photographs!

The happy couple! Fun fact: Herman is wearing the same suit that he wore for their wedding! It's a dark blue wool suit that still looks in style and not at all "vintage"; if he hadn't told me, I never would have guessed that it was a 50-year-old suit.

And here are Betty and Herman with their youngest nephew (me) and their great-nieces Suzanna, Hillary, and Abigail. Do you see any family resemblance?

And here we are with my cousin Jill, Herman and Betty's daughter and the planner of the day's event.

The oldest of eight children, Herman is followed in the line-up of siblings by William (deceased), Curtis (next to me in the photo above), Marcella (in Washington), Adeline (in Kansas), Lucille (in Williston, ND), Lawrence (in the photo below), and my mom, Mary Ann (deceased).

And here's Lawrence (who's also one of my godparents). Since I see my maternal aunts and uncles infrequently, whenever I do, I am struck by how much more they seem to resemble one another now than they did when I was a child and saw them more often. Also, I saw in Herman, Curtis, and Lawrence today gestures or expressions or facial features that reminded me of Mom or Grandma (their mom, also deceased)--so it was especially nice to be around them and experience the happy reminders.

This is my cousin Cleone, Curtis' oldest child. Our cousin Mary Beth, William's youngest child, had been at the party, too, but left before we arrived, so we didn't get to see her. We also didn't get to see Layne and his wife Jo or Shar and her husband Ben (Layne and Shar are two of Lawrence's kids). Jill, Cleone, Mary Beth, Shar, Layne, and I were the cousins present today.

Well, in fact, another cousin was present today, too: my cousin Myrna, who is actually my cousin on the other side of the family! She's my dad's older brother's youngest child, and next to her is her mom, Goldie (who's also one of my godparents). Both of them live in Minot, and Myrna happens to be Jill's friend as well as my cousin. Myrna helped Jill with organizing the event, keeping the food stocked throughout the afternoon, etc.

Here we are with even more relatives! From left to right: my great-aunt Marian (Dad's dad's sister), Abigail, Gisela (more on her in a second), Hillary, me, my great-aunt Arlene (Dad's dad's other sister), Suzanna, and Carl (Mom and Herman's cousin as well as Dad's former business partner as well as Gisela's husband). Marian and Arlene live in Minot, too, but Carl and Gisela drove from Tioga for the afternoon . . . and they were leaving the Royal Fork just as we were arriving for supper, so we saw a lot of them today!


  1. It was a lot of driving for a short amount of time in Minot -- but I was glad that we could be there to see relatives and celebrate with Herman and Betty!

  2. Wow....I love all the pictures! You're right. The older our uncles get, the more they resemble each other and Grandma R. They seem to be shrinking as well. ;) I so wish I could have attended. I knew it would be fun to see so many relatives on Mom's side. I'm glad you were able to attend and represent Mary Ann's side. Thank you!