Bobby Bindseil asked us if we had any animals that could graze down the overgrowth on a piece of land next to his house. We put a few goats on the place and I go by with some regularity to check on them. One evening as I was finishing up with the goats, Bobby and his wife, Clara Jo, came out and engaged me in some pleasant conversation. It has been said that when we spend a lot of time reminiscing, we must be getting old. So be it.
We got to talking about the days when families were close and got together often just to enjoy each others’ company. Bobby told me about growing up in a close-knit family of German ancestry. I regaled them with stories of my childhood associating with my mother’s dairy farmer kin in the mountain valleys of Utah.
When we parted, we lamented the fact that we just don’t seem to find the time for close family interaction any more. For that matter, we aren’t very close to neighbors, either. Bobby said that he missed the times when people would just drop in and visit. Nowadays, that hardly ever happens.
I recently read an article about tracing one’s roots. “To successfully trace one’s family origins in Europe,” said Leslie Albrecht Huber, “you need to know your family’s hometown. This is the key piece of information that you need to trace your European ancestry. Once the hometown is found, research is relatively easy because people did not move around a lot. There are often multi-generational records in the same place.”
Perhaps that is part of the problem—today family members do move around a lot. Take my own children, for example. My Number One Son is in northern Utah. My Number Two Son is in the State of Washington. My Number Three “Son” is actually my daughter and she is in southern Utah. My Number Four “Son” is also my daughter and she is in Iowa.
I have a step-son in Idaho and a step-daughter in San Antonio. Except for the two in San Antonio, lamentably we don’t see much of our twelve grandchildren.
I have to admit to being somewhat envious of my youngest brother, Dale, and his wife, Dana. Their home at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains is the magnet that draws their children and grandchildren together on many a Sunday afternoon.
It is not unusual to find twenty or more gathered around the dinner table. Dale and his sons wrestle with the little ones, and the cousins enjoy their time playing together. The women gather in the kitchen or on the porch and talk about women things. “We don’t do anything structured,” says Dale. “But getting together often strengthens family ties. What could be more important?”
My fondest childhood memories are of family gatherings where the men talked about deer hunting and dairy cows while the women discussed recipes, quilts, canning fruit and Aunt Jane’s lumbago. The air was filled with the aroma of fresh-baked bread, cake or cookies.
We knew our aunts, uncles and cousins back then. Now, with family members scattered hither and yon, it is hard to even remember who belongs to whom.
My wife often talks of the people who just dropped by to visit at her house and how her Mom kept a pot of chili on the stove and cornbread in the oven during deer season for those hunters out there who got tired of their own cooking. They always knew they were welcome.
It seems that now when the young ones get together, interaction is hindered by the various and sundry electronic appliances hanging by wires from earlobes and held in hands with fingers moving frantically over the little buttons on their faces.
Who has time to talk to cousins when the ugly green hulk is doing battle with the slobbering beast that can transform itself into a beautiful, sensuous woman?
I know that we could do better meeting and visiting with neighbors. Some new neighbors recently moved in nearby. Unfortunately, the only interaction we have had with them was when they came by to complain that they were constantly extracting our goats’ heads from the fence that runs in front of their property.
How much better would it have been had we gone by when they first moved in and made their acquaintance over a warm plate of cookies?
We can make of our homes and our families what we will. Finding the will is the key.
Goethe said, “He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.” Someone else said, “A person’s wealth can be measured by the love of his children.”
These things can be cultivated or neglected. It would be sad, indeed, to wake up one day and wonder where one’s family and friends had gone. When we depart this life we will take no material goods with us, but we can take with us our experience and our knowledge. We can also take our families and their love. As Dale said, what could be more important?