Sofia and the family reunion

Ronda Rich's picture

Down in Milledgeville, Ga., there is a lovely woman named Sophia who is a fan of this column. In turn, she is a supporter and friend of mine.

Now, Sophia has an absolutely kind habit that she practices weekly. She clips my column from the newspaper, makes 20 copies of it, writes 20 notes and addresses 20 envelopes to various relatives. Most of these are older aunts, uncles and cousins who delight in getting a note and a surprise in their weekly mail. She knows that and enjoys bringing them that moment of joy.

As a result, I’ve become a star throughout the far reaches of the Shockley family and, in fact, I have quite a following among them.

“You think like us,” one of her uncles told me approvingly.

This is all in the way of an explanation of how I wound up entertaining at the Shockley Family Reunion. Sophia, who is among the most organized organizers you will ever find, had either volunteered or drawn the short straw so she was in charge of the every-other-year gathering of those related by blood.

A full 12 months before the biannual gathering in Madison, Ga., Sophia timidly approached me about the possibility.

It interested me for several reasons, including: I appreciate Sophia’s enthusiastic support; I wanted to meet the other folks and – this last one is always big factor in my decisions – I thought I might find a column in the midst of all those Shockleys.

And I did.

As family reunions go, it favored all the ones I’ve ever attended. It had a marked family resemblance to our own reunions, though I feel fairly certain there is no intermingling of blood between our family and theirs.

But I came away from it realizing that all family reunions are related in tradition and custom, if not in actual DNA.

In an old two-story schoolhouse now owned by one of the family members, they met to eat, laugh and celebrate their commonality with the fellowship spilling out onto the tree-shaded grounds.

They have good Southern cooks in that family. Two long rows of tables were laden with home-made, hand-pulled barbecue made by the family patriarch, casseroles of every variety, cakes, pies, banana pudding, milk jugs of sweet tea and liters of Cokes.

Just like our family reunions.

The older folks took their seats and waited for the younger ones to approach and pay their homage of respect.

Just like our family reunions.

New grandmothers pulled baby photos from their wallets and gushed over them while young mothers chased toddlers and scolded older ones.

Just like our family reunions.

One woman with a bandaged arm, described her recent surgery while others listened sympathetically, asked concerned questions, then recited their latest ailments, surgeries and challenges.

Just like our family reunions.

The women took charge, scurried around to take care of the food, clean up and offer general hospitality while the men, in general, relaxed under the trees and exchanged stories. Some chewed on cigars and others sipped coffee from disposable cups.

Just like our family reunions.

Men conversed about football, baseball, racing and trucks that don’t run and ones that run by using too much gas while women chatted about recipes, gardens, children, clothes and hair.

Just like our family reunions.

As the day drew short, the family patriarch, a strong, kindly sort, stood up and thanked Sophia for all her hard work, explained how appreciative they were for all her diligence.

“These reunions don’t just happen,” he said. “Someone has to put them together. So, who would like to volunteer to head up the next reunion in two years?”

I looked around the room. Folks squirmed. Some looked down or away. Some moved out of his line of vision. But none raised a hand.

Just like our family reunions.

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Flirting” and “The Town That Came A-Courtin’.” Her newest book is “What Southern Women Know about Faith.” She lives near Gainesville, Ga. Sign up for her newsletter at]

login to post comments | Ronda Rich's blog