OPINION: Family ties important, worth time and tending

By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them
are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation
of each of these people.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday I spent the day out in the country down in south Mississippi attending a family reunion.
It was not my family, but the family of a dear friend.
Plenty of people; few I knew. But the food was fabulous, the fellowship fine.
And the day brought to mind memories of my own family and the occasions on which we once gathered.
If prizes were given to the branch of my family tree that met the most through the years, it would be the McRaes – my paternal grandmother’s side of the family.
Early on, we’d meet in the big white house owned by my grandmother’s oldest sister and her husband in Lexington. My grandmother was one of 10 children, so there was a crowd.
I remember peering out the backseat window, eagerly waiting for the house’s big front porch to come into view. I loved seeing my cousins and getting great hugs from aunts and uncles.
It was especially fun when I was among the youngest of the kids.
The men sat around the large living room talking while the women sweated in the hot kitchen or sat at the already-set dining room table.
When lunch was ready, everyone squeezed into the dining room while one of the older men said the blessing.
Then the feeding frenzy commenced.
The men ate first. The women visited, but kept close watch in case one of their spouses needed more tea, butterbeans or any of the other delictible foods fixed for the occasion.
The men didn’t dawdle – when their plates were void of food, they retired once more to the living room to resume their conversations about farming and politics and all subjects in between.
Then it was our turn. Once again, the women served the plates, this time for their children.
Only after we’d finished eating did the women take their places at the table and finally enjoy what was left of the fruits of their labor.

More gatherings
When the Criss side of the family gathered, it was in Coffeeville, usually at my Great-Aunt Georgia’s house in the bend of Bailey Avenue.
As I recall, tables were set up outside and all around the house so everyone ate at the same time. Miss Georgia was one of the best cooks I’ve ever known.
More recently, we’d meet in Grenada, at my cousin Julia’s house. The gathering would always be planned around our grandmother’s June 18 birthday.
Since her death, we’ve been remiss about carrying on. Sure, she was the magnet that drew us together.
But her memory should do the same.
Family’s important.
And certainly worth tending.

Contact Leslie Criss at (662) 678-1584 or leslie.criss@djournal.com.