Sunday, August 02, 2009


I think it is a cool thing when my daughters want to be like their great-aunts someday.

This weekend was the Orval Smucker reunion. Orval was Paul's grandpa, he of the long johns in July (they were short-sleeved! interjects Aunt Allene, and light-weight!) and dangerous driving habits (Darrell remembers riding in the back of the pickup with a few cousins and Orval would look at the ryegrass over here and the sheep over there, but never at the road) and raspy voice and interesting song-leading at the Harrisburg church (he was always one beat ahead of the congregation the whole entire song, says Steve, how did he do that?)

As you can see, I can't start talking about the Smucker reunion without wandering off down rabbit trails and getting hung up on vivid personalities. This is really a fascinating family, with its share of errors and sin, and yet there stood 8 fine men of the second and third generation, singing impromptu, beautifully, all of them forces to be reckoned with and reason for much pride in their forebears.

Speaking of forces to be reckoned with, the Smucker guys tend to wind up in leadership of some sort, and this afternoon four of the wives suddenly found themselves caught in a very intense discussion of the unique challenges of their roles after one happened to ask another about how it's going being a minister's wife. We never did solve any of our problems but oh how healing it was to know I'm not the only one.

Paul preached a sermonette today, but he wasn't one of the eight singers mentioned previously, and neither did our family grace the group with well-harmonized music like a few of the others did. The musical gifts in this line are phenomenal, and in the in-laws too, leading to families who burst easily into lovely enthusiastic melodies. Paul and I have completely missed out on this gift but we are not made to feel inferior at all for this, and a few of our children have the touch so that's redemptive.

The Aunts came from Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio. Wilma has passed on, but Luella, Nadine, and Allene entertained us with countless stories. Actually just their ordinary conversation is entertainment, the snappy rejoinders, the debates, the complete unpretentiousness. Allene told about being a college student, desperate to earn money over the summer, so she drove a seed truck every day from Wilton's farm in Lookingglass all the way up to the warehouse here, a hundred miles. Wilton told her one day that the fan belt is about to go, and if the truck sounds like this and gets hot, stop right away.

"Why in the world didn't he just put on a new fan belt??" we all said. Allene didn't know. You didn't discuss such things with Wilton. He was Older. She didn't elaborate on that adjective but implied that it was heavy with meaning.

The story continued. Sure enough, just past Goshen it happened, the sound, the hot engine. Allene stopped the truck and climbed over the fence and headed back to Goshen on a frontage road. Someone picked her up and took her to a gas station. She had to call Grandpa to find out what kind of truck it was.

"How did you call him? On your cell phone?" someone asked, being clever. "Of course not, I didn't have a cell phone," said Allene, "and I don't think I had any money with me, either." Nadine snapped, aside, "You have money now and you still don't have a cell phone!"

The truck got fixed and Allene considered the story finished. It sure wasn't finished in my mind. "How could your dad do that--send a college girl down the road in an old seed truck with a fan belt about to go? You would never do that!" I asked Paul on the way home. He didn't know the answer either but didn't see any need to obsess about it. Smuckers deal in logic and are not as good at obsessing as the people they marry.

Yesterday we went to Silver Creek Falls and Allene and Nadine kept up with their great-nieces on the 4-mile hike. This is why the girls want to be like them when they get old. I can well imagine the repartee with Amy and Emily will be equally entertaining in 50 years.

The adventuresome genes obviously went rattling down through each generation, judging from the children riding tricycles on a flatbed truck (Paul and his sibs, leading to one of the scars on Paul's forehead, no wait, that particular scar was from pushing sacks of seed off the truck and tumbling down with one of the sacks) and John teasing Todd on his wheelchair by steering him just a bit toward the creek, a nailbiter story that had us all digging our heels into the creek bank right along with John, trying to keep the much-heavier Todd out of the water and suddenly the weight shifts and over he goes into six feet of water, and just like that the cousins are all there unbuckling him and holding his head above water, and soon Aunt Susie is on the creek bank having an understandable conniption, and finally they end up hanging onto Todd's belt and dragging him up the bank because there was no other way to get this poor boy with no muscle tone up and out of there.

And the next generation has plenty of stories but I'm sure I don't know half of them, and no doubt at reunions 25 years from now I will hear of shenanigans I knew nothing of and praise God for his mercy in sparing my children from their own foolishness.

Meanwhile, Aunt Nadine said she'd teach Jenny how to skin a bullfrog.

Quote of the Day:
"Is the next one going to be In His Nightgown?"
--cousin David, looking at my book titles*

*hint: Wee Willie Winkie


  1. I'm fascinated by the names in this bunch--Allene and Nadine and Wilton are in a different category from my grandparents' and aunts' and uncles' names. Mine were of the Levi and Clara sort, and Ananias and Ella, and Fannie, Esther, Lizzie, Mary, and Emma. Oh yes, John, Joseph, Jonas, and Jesse. And Harry and Perry (twins--They rhyme perfectly if you say them properly, like midwesterner.---not like a PA-er), and David and Daniel, and Fred and Paul. Slightly more adventurous names were Edwin and willis, and Mahlon, and Earl and Ray and Glen. I have a completely unsubstantiated personal theory that the further west you go, the more "on the edge" the people tend to be. I guess that would explain an Oregonian family with out-of-the-ordinary names--and a midwestern one with ordinary names.

  2. Your posts never fail to give me at least a gleeful chuckle. This one was good for a "LOL." =D Interesting and unusual relatives are great. In two weeks we have a reunion on my husband's side of the family that involves Aunt Mamie who is in her 80's and has ADHD. (not professionally diagnosed, but we know the signs!) I can't wait to see what she'll come up with this time! =)

  3. Thanks for writing a bit about the reunion. It's always a good time when the aunts are together! :) Sure wish we could have been there!

  4. Mrs. I--very interesting point. Other names in the clan include Arzalea, Elden, Willard, Clarene, LaVerne, Lyle, Carl, Marion, and Verena, and I think there's both a Florene and Clorine in the freindshaft, which sounds like a chemistry lab.
    Doris--we were so disappointed none of Wilma's or Nadine's children could make it.

  5. P.S. Or Luella's children; what was I thinking?