Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Troutman Reunion 2014: Connecting with Living Family Members

Cousins, cousins, and more cousins, about 52 all told, showed up at the family reunion in Omaha on July 20, all descendants of Clint and Mary (Waggoner) Troutman. Clint and Mary would be proud. Neville, James, Carl, Verne, and Virginia would be proud. We’re still gathering together every other year to carry on the tradition they started. It takes commitment and work, and it’s worth every effort.
A few years ago when I was working on my MFA in writing and participating in workshops, one of my classmates posed a question about my research and writing on the subject of ancestors: “What do you do to get to know living relatives?” That question had actually been nudging my elbow for some time, but I had been trying to ignore it. To hear it from someone else seemed like a challenge.
Okay. What do I do? At that time, the answer was not much—other than my immediate family, not much. We had moved away from the Troutman clan in Nebraska when I was not quite 14, just when I was reaching the age when relationships with my cousins might begin to take on more meaning and depth. Consequently, I felt out-of-touch with them.
After Myron and I married and settled in Indiana, we made a trip or two to the family reunion in Nebraska, not enough to give our children a sense of belonging with the Troutmans. The busy-ness of our lives and our finances kept travel at a minimum. Plus, Mom and Dad lived in Virginia, the opposite direction from Nebraska, so we chose to go that way every summer.
So how would I get to know my Nebraska cousins again? I had to make a plan. That’s when I learned about and the opportunity it offered to connect online, so I joined and invited cousins to join. It also gave me an opportunity to share my research. That worked fairly well for a while, but it failed to engage as many as I’d hoped, especially the young people. Why would they want to participate, anyway, when they had Facebook? That’s where the action was.
Despite concerns about privacy, we gave up our password-only MyFamily web site and opened a family group on FB. Even though not many family members post on the family group page, having them as “friends” allows us to at least interact with each other a bit more than otherwise.
Critics of this method of communication say that it is superficial, but isn’t superficial better than nothing? At least the children of my cousins know my name and face and I theirs—and the names and faces of their children. For years we have kept in touch through the annual Christmas letter, and it has been a wonderful record of family happenings. But a once-a-year report on the events of our lives is less engaging than the immediate participation of seeing graduation photos when the event happens. Or seeing pics of the bride and groom, or of the new baby.
But the family reunion is a very special time when we can gather in person for hugs, good food, conversation, and fun, so I am committed to it. Facebook can never take its place.
Didn't get all the cousins on camera, but here are a few pics of our happy event.
Julie, Beth, Ralph, Kirk, Darrell, Bill

Rogene and Jill

Brenda, Bryce, Shirley, Dara

Ruth and Larry

Connee and Harold

Jason, Brock, and Melissa

Genise and Mark

Dwight and Wes

Lee, John, and Verna

Anna or Lydia, Judy, Luke, and Davinia (Matt and Anna or Lydia in water)

Beth, Mark, and Julie--Siblings

Lydia, Anna, Grace, and Jared (Davinia under water)

Lee and Rogene

© 2014, Z. T. Noble

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