Sunday, March 2, 2014

Family gatherings

My cousin Mike celebrated his 60th birthday this weekend. All his siblings flew in for the party. So did a slew of friends from his hometown in Baytown, TX, where his dad was a chemist for Exxon and his mother was principal of St. Joseph Catholic School.  The toasts described an adventurous kid.

Mike grew up to attend UT and then headed for Dallas to earn his law degree from SMU. Alumni from both institutions raised their glasses after retelling of high jinks and close calls from his college years and beyond. The remainder of the 95 guests at his party laughed and gasped.

His wife Sandi asked his family to send photos of Mike growing up, and there were framed photos of him at different ages: a tow-headed, skinny kid with a buzzed haircut that was so popular in the 1950s; a strong bodied, tanned youngster with his Sunfish on Black Duck Bay; a laughing, carefree young adult with a black Camero. The more recent photos were of him as an established attorney exchanging marriage vows with Sandi.

There was a deejay at the party as well, spinning a good mix of country & western, R&B, and hard rock. The dance floor attracted all ages, from 18-month-old grandson Julian (he can move his booty!) and the kids who are now in their late 20s and 30s to the older crowd, us.

My head is spinning with the stories we shared last night. A photo of Mike and his brother in pristine white suits had a couple of folks wondering. "Were they extras on Fantasy Island?" someone asked with a laugh. "No," I replied, "they're dressed for their First Communion!" One song and then another would bring back the memories of going to the Elk's Club, or doing the Garner Stomp at a state park pavilion, or singing as we washed dishes (my aunt didn't need a dishwasher with five kids and visiting cousins).

My sides are sore from all the laughing. I will admit, I shed a few tears, too.  Family ties run deeply. We're blood, and on occasions like last night, we feel the bond right to the core of our soul.

Look through your family photos. What memories do they evoke?