In Our Own Backyard….Blessed be the tie that bindsIt was the reunion of the Jurvelin family clan – our relatives on my mother’s side.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
We could hear the murmur of voices as we rounded the corner of the restaurant. It could have been the daily gathering of the men’s coffee group, or the meeting of the local women’s book club, or the party faithful of some campaign group meeting over burgers to strategize for the coming weeks.
But it wasn’t. It was the reunion of the Jurvelin family clan – our relatives on my mother’s side.
Since there were 12 children in my mom’s family, they had understandably spread out over a wide area after all of them grew up and started raising families. As the next generation came along, the footprint of the family grew even wider, and the times we got together were way too few and far between. There were always the inevitable weddings and funerals that brought at least some of us together from time to time, but none left a lot of time for visiting and getting reacquainted.
A few years back some members of the family launched an ambitious plan to visit our native Finland, but alas, Ken and I were unable to join them. Last year, the same group rallied with the West Coast Jurvelins in Coeur de’ Alene, Idaho, but once again, work obligations prevented us from going.
And so it was with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety that I headed in to this family reunion get-together last Saturday. I had tried to explain to my husband ahead of time all of the various connections between who was married to whom, what relation they were to me and my mom, where they all lived, and what they did for a living. It was then that I started to panic, because I realized I didn’t even remember all of that myself.
I wondered if I’d even recognize all of them since a number of years had passed since I’d seen some of them, especially since all of us had grown a good deal older in the meantime. I wondered if I’d be able to remember everyone’s name so I could introduce them to Ken, and I wondered if they had wondered where I’d been when the rest of them were journeying around the country and the world together.
But as soon as I heard the murmur of familiar voices coming from the end of the restaurant dining room, as soon as I smelled the aroma of coffee and heard the comfortable clink of cups and saucers, as soon as I recognized the first of my cousins who greeted me at the door, I knew all was well.
I let out a deep breath that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding as I settled into the burly hugs of my cousins. A flash of recollection washed over me as I recalled how my uncles always smelled familiarly of after shave when they hugged me as a little girl....
My cousin David gave me a grin from across the room and came over and began asking me all about what I was doing these days, where I was living, and how I liked my career. I confess that he was one of the older cousins that I never was around enough to get to know particularly well, and I was impressed at how interested he appeared to be in me and what I was doing after all of these years.
My mom and I were soon absorbed into the pleasant chatter of the room, leaving Ken behind to fare for himself with two of my cousins’ husbands who found themselves riding the tide of the Jurvelin family enthusiasm as well.
It didn’t take us long to feel like we were back in the fold again, sharing photos of grandchildren, weddings and even the family cat, discussing how we women had grown to look more like our moms over the years and asking about family members who hadn’t been able to attend that day.
Ken commented that as he looked over the room, he could almost pick out which of us were Jurvelins by birth, and which had come into the family by marriage. We share a certain roundness of face, a certain tilt of the nose, a certain clear blueness of the eyes, and, in some at least, a certain lilting dialect of old Finland in our way of speaking.
We talked for what seemed like hours, ate dinner together, took lots of photos and toasted all who had come from near and far to be together for this special time of reunion. And as we were preparing to depart, my cousin David came up to me once again, this time a bit sheepishly, and admitted, “I have a confession to make. You know when I was talking with you earlier? I thought you were your sister Barb!”