Among my extended family, we don’t have a lot of ‘family traditions’ per se, but there are some things we have always shared time for on an informal basis. Those things include telling jokes, going fishing, playing games, and watching and talking about WV Mountaineer sports. It seems like it doesn’t really matter how long it has been since we have gotten together, but we can always make time for these things.
But there has also been one “sort of” extended family tradition. My Uncle Russell and Aunt Flora have always had a New Years Day dinner that they prepped and then invited my folks, my brother, my sister, and me over to enjoy with them. To my recollection, I’ve only missed this meal a couple of times. Last year, I missed it because Jamie and I were on our way to enjoy our free Orange Bowl tickets. In 2006, I missed it because I was serving at a conference held in Amsterdam (one of my favorite cities) for GCM’s European churches. Outside of those occasions, I can’t really remember missing New Year’s Day at Russ & Floras.
I can remember as a little kid, we had two tables in Flora’s kitchen One was for the grown ups (or near grown ups), and the other was for us kids. I also remember others being able to visit during the meal as well. For instance, my best friend in the whole world, Willie, has sat at the table with his family on multiple occasions, and my friends Curtis and Derek (and my then girlfriend Jamie) joined us after attending a conference (and a bowl game) in North Carolina. Of course, there were the usual New Year’s activities of watching college football and talking about the Mountaineers, my Aunt Flora’s delicious rolls, and, always, lots and lots of laughter.
This year, it was much of the same (minus the rolls). Flora had to work a good bit of the day, but a few of us kids (especially my cousin Pam), decided we would do what we could to keep the tradition alive. We ordered pizzas and still sat around the same table, watched football, and laughed a lot. Jamie and I drove down on New Year’s Morning, picked up my dad, and we were able to hang out until right around 6PM. Jamie had to be at work at 530AM, so as great as the company was, we really needed to make our way back along Route 50 and I79 from Parkersburg to Morgantown.
As a family, we have been blessed beyond what we realize many times. Sitting in that kitchen yesterday with my cousins, I couldn’t help but think about how much love had been in our midst our entire lives. Of course none of us see each other as much as we would like, and that is always the case with family and others we care about deeply.
I can’t help but think that this may be a little bit of what heaven will be like. Lots of laughter, love, and wonderful stories with God sitting in the middle of it all, laughing and smiling with all of the rest of us.
Do you have any annual family traditions or gathering times with extended family or friends? If so, I hope you treasure those times, and if you do not have any traditions like this, maybe it is time to start them!