I was thinking that we often talk about how something tickles our funnybone, so maybe it’s acceptable to say that Memorial Day tickles my nostalgia bone. The reason for that is that even though I know it’s a holiday with a traditional meaning, it always makes me think of the start of Summer picnic weather, and that in turn stirs up childhood memories. Specifically, I’ve been reminiscing about what we called ‘family reunions’ — big, annual picnics that were attended by dozens of people, some driving for hours to get there. For many of them, it was their only chance to reconnect with members of their extended family. (I realize that there are still families around that are carrying on the tradition, but I’d bet that there are far fewer now that they have so many other ways to keep in touch.)
I can still remember how it was. The men carrying load after load from cars while the ladies worked on covering the long picnic tables that had been fitted end to end. Eventually the guys could draw a breath and wipe their faces with bandannas while the ladies uncovered and arranged all the food. Meanwhile, the kids would be checking out the playground, even if some of us had to watch over littler siblings and cousins.
Eventually the tables would be loaded down with everything from fried chicken to corn to big platters of sliced tomatoes. You could also find baked beans, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, jello salad, even meatloaf — and of course a whole table devoted to pies, cakes and cookies. There would be multiples of almost everything, just in case your first trip around the food tables yielded some that were different from what you were used to at home. It was quite a feast, but the funny thing is that no matter how much we ate, we still stormed back to the playground afterwards.
The black and white photo is authentic (that’s me on the right) but I have to confess that I don’t have any home movies from those days, so I did the next best thing. I spent a lot of time on Youtube and found a video that is similar to the mental images I recall from those days — the people, the clothes, the hairstyles. Thanks to this unknown family for giving us a glimpse of a big family picnic from that era.