I wasn’t
excited about going to my family reunion in Jacksonville, Fla. last weekend. It
wasn’t because I don’t love and care about my family; it was thrown together at
the last minute and I wasn’t up for the drama.

You know what I’m talking about. Most people have memories from childhood of
the relative who drinks too much then cuts up and goes off on everyone. Or the
cousin that just might steal something out of your purse if you’re not looking.

Besides, our family gets together only when someone dies. We
take pictures, have a meal and make promises to see each other again real soon,
but it never happens.

So when my mother insisted that I attend the reunion, I complained to her daily
for weeks. “Ma, why do I have to go? I don’t want to go. You can’t make me
go — I’m grown.” (Yes, I really did say that.)  I felt like I was a
kid again.

She’d simply reply, “It’s your family and it’s important to me that you
go. I need you to be there.” So reluctantly, I made my hotel arrangements
and planned my journey to Florida. I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I could
think about was which family member might get cracked over the head with a
bottle after someone got into an argument.

When we arrived, at almost 1 a.m. mother and other family members were waiting
for us in the hotel lobby. My mother said they decided they weren’t going to
bed until we got there. I was touched.

As I hugged and kissed family members I hadn’t seen in years and relatives I
had never met, my favorite cousin whispered to me, “Welcome Home.” It
was then that I realized the family reunion was bigger than my wayward
feelings. I was so busy being cynical that I’d forgotten about all the goodness
that family represents. How many of us do that?

I recall times in my life when there was no one else in the world I could call
on but family. I’ve gotten so bogged down in my perception of what I think my
family should be that I neglected to remember who they really are. No matter
who they are and what they’ve done, they are still my blood, and family cannot
be erased.

In a short period of time, cousins got to know cousins and I learned facts that,
had I not been there, I might never have known.

There were more than 45 children, and I thought to myself, “Wow – if these
children passed each other on the street they wouldn’t even know they were

I realized that, if nothing else, the younger generation
needs to know their people and where they come from.

I often joke with friends about random black folks possibly
being a cousin. Who would have guessed that I could be related to half the city
of Savannah, Ga. I had no idea.

At my family reunion, I found a comfort I didn’t expect.
There’s no feeling like being around people who look like you, act like you and,
in many cases, think like you. I was excited to meet a second cousin who has an
affinity for sunflower seeds. She eats them every day, just like I do! She even
had on the exact blue nail polish that I did. I hadn’t seen anyone else crazy
enough to wear that color, except me.

My experience with my family was beautiful and drama free. I am grateful. This
weekend I not only learned about my history, I also learned something about me.

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