My cousins don't kiss, but they eat

Friday, August 13, 2004

Have you been to a reunion this year? Chances are you have.

I'm not what you would call the reunion type. I have successfully avoided any of my high school or college reunions. Family reunions are hit and miss. Now I have two reunions coming up -- one tomorrow and another on the second Saturday of August -- and I'm planning to go.

I broke my no-reunion string a couple of years ago when a get-together was planned for anyone connected with Shady Nook School, the one-room school where I and nearly 60 other students in eight grades were taught, disciplined and loved by one teacher.

After all, it had been 50 years -- half a century! -- since I was a first-grader, and that old schoolhouse on Greenwood Valley held a special place in my heart. So I went.

Any of you who have been to reunions know that the youngsters you grew up with have become old people. I don't know how that happens, since I certainly don't look a day older. I had white hair when I was 5 years old. It was called cotton-top hair in my day.

One of the reasons I went, as I've explained before, was because I hoped my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Rayfield, would be there. She wasn't. Later Mrs. Rayfield baked me this scrumptious cake, and she told me she really wanted to go to the next reunion. But she didn't. Neither did I.

Tuesday I was in my favorite hometown having lunch at the Zephyr Cafe when Mrs. Rayfield came in to have a bite. There were hugs all around.

You do remember that Mrs. Rayfield was the first woman I ever fell madly in love with, right?

Well, let me tell you there's still a spark there.

And guess what? Mrs. Rayfield said she is definitely going to the Shady Nook reunion Sept. 11.

That did it for me. I'm going too.

The other reunion, the one tomorrow, is the Miller reunion for descendants of my Miller grandparents plus the offspring of some of my grandparents' cousins.

When I was little, these events coincided with graveyard cleaning at Meadows Cemetery on a hill overlooking Brushy Creek. At some point the affair was moved to a state park in August, which is not the month in which I would choose to have a picnic with cousins I rarely see.

My mother and her sister -- my aunt -- are all that's left of Hans and Millie's family. There are oodles of cousins, most of which have children and grandchildren, which sets my wife and I apart. Drooling over grandchildren at a family reunion isn't a pretty sight.

And then there are the boyfriends and girlfriends of the current teen generation, some of which appear to have staying power and return year after year while others are flashes in the pan. I'm pretty sure my picnic eating habits have nothing to do with that.

Pray for continued cool weather. Please.

To those of you who have become my tomato angels this year: I am happy to report that not a single tomato has gone to waste.

My wife discovered that whole tomatoes can be frozen and used in recipes when there are no fresh tomatoes. That's good news.

And there's something about the flavor of this year's crop that's extra-special.

Thanks, everyone, who took pity on us and shared your bounty.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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