I’ve been on the road for the past two weekends, selling jewelry first at the Thirsty Ear Festival in Santa Fe and then on the plaza at the Santa Fe Arts & Crafts Show. I’m certainly not complaining – everyone should get to live the life of traveling to interesting places within New Mexico to spend a weekend outdoors meeting new friends and seeing old (I love seeing my pal Cynthia at Thirsty Ear – it’s been too long!).
But I’ve also been thinking all week that I really need a weekend at home – the tumbleweeds are taking over the side yard, and a random pile of clothes, dirty and clean both, seems to be growing into an artistic shape in the chair in my bedroom. Since I arrived home on Sunday night I’ve been secretly wishing I didn’t have to go to the Terry Family Reunion in Red River this weekend.
Last night a thunderstorm accompanied by a cool steady rain washed through Quay County and this morning the air on my deck is chilly. It’s almost like getting up early in the mountains – Dave and I took our coffee out back at 5:30, and suddenly I was ready for a weekend in Red River, altitude 8,750 feet. That, together with the fact that my nieces from California arrived here yesterday evening with their three little boys suddenly put me in the mood for hitting the road. Again.
We do this every year – the Terry family used to have Sunday dinner every other Sunday at Granny’s house in Tucumcari, and before that, before I was born, in Porter. Now we set aside a weekend annually and get together in Red River. Of the original ten siblings, four remain- my Daddy, my Uncles Marvin and L.E., and my Aunt Laverne. And about 250 descendants. We’re expecting around 80 for this weekend.
I looked up the word “family” in Webster’s online just to get an idea how to define who we’ll all be this weekend. There’s a definition for traditional family, for non-traditional family, for a social unit that considers itself a family – in fact, after reading all nine basic definitions, I decided to completely throw out the idea of trying to define us. Instead I thought of what I knew about the Terrys, my family of origin.
1. Affectionate – there will be much hugging, some kissing on the lips (yeah, we do that. It’s something Granny Terry did and as odd as it may seem to the rest of the world, it happens here – brothers with brothers, aunts with nieces, cousins with cousins. ), lots of arms slung over shoulders, sitting close on the meeting room couch, kids in laps. I once married into a family that didn’t hug and it was like being on a foreign planet. I really had no idea how they connected. And guess what? They really didn’t.
2. Loud – there will be lots of talking at once and shouts of hello and what the hell? and omigosh look at how you’ve grown. We are not a quiet or subdued crowd – meals in the meeting room can sometimes be deafening, except when we pray. Which brings me to the next item. . .
3. God-fearing. And God-loving. There will be lots of prayers, before every meal and then on Sunday during the devotional. One thing Granny and Grandpa Terry gave us was a deep faith in the power of God to hold things together. Of course they were right.
4. Fun. Someone will go into the pool with all their clothes on (it was me last year). Someone will tell a great joke. There will be games and dominoes (I still can’t play 42, but maybe this is the year I learn) and laughing on the deck and in the pool chairs. We are basically a very sunny-dispositioned group. I don’t think Granny Terry ever put up with any pouting and whining – we all still have an ingrained intolerance of sniveling.
5. Proud. We love who we are. I was told by my Daddy every day of my life that I was special, or pretty, or smart, or just plain wonderful, and I know his tendency to make his kids feel unique didn’t come out of a vacuum. The Terrys are a proud (some locals might say arrogant, but come on now. . .) group of people. At times the size of the egos in the room might be a little overpowering to a newcomer.
6. Friendly. There will be some new folks this year (Dave and his girls. . .), and everyone will gather them up like they’ve been coming for years. Dave will be recruited by the young cousins to help with the men cooking breakfast tomorrow morning, and all the old aunts and cousins will try to get his girls up on the couch with them to get better acquainted.
This may seem like a long ramble to get to a single point, especially if you’re not a member of the Terry family. But the point is this: These days, lots of people either don’t have a tight-knit family like mine, or they live far away from the people who have to love them no matter what. I’m lucky – in a few hours I get to head to the hills for a weekend of good food and fun and affection with a group of generally very familiar and decent people. It’s a gift and a blessing to have a family like this. If you have one, thank the Good Lord and your lucky stars and make a plan to get together with them. If you don’t have one, create one from people around you that you trust and care for. What defines a family doesn’t have anything to do with bloodline – it has to do with heart. And what we have in my family, most of all, is lots of heart.
When my Grandpa and Granny Terry came to New Mexico in the teens to hometead in the Porter community, I’m pretty sure they never foresaw this event. I hope we’ve done them proud.