What else can I say about the Roberts’ Family Reunion that I have not touched on before? This year, even the weather was identical to last year’s; muggy, overcast, air heavy with moisture. I take comfort in this ritual, in this marking of the year, of the first Sunday in August. Now, the summer can start it’s slow to decline to Labor Day. The green of roadside droops from heat and in shortened shadows, I laugh with my family over steamed sweet corn, over the variation of the years. What was I last year? Who am I this year? What will I be the next time I make the ritual drive out to Drums, out to this strange, lush piece of Pennsylvania life?
The first Sunday of every August, since 1909, the relatives and (now, since there isn’t anyone actually named Roberts there) decedents of the Roberts family gather in Drums, PA to “reunite” with one another. August is not August unless the first Sunday is spent eating food, chatting with people who’s names I can only sometimes recall, drinking birch beer from the tap jutting from the side of the green refrigerator, and gazing out across the pond/lake.
It is like any place I go that is populated by my former selves, by my family’s history. There are photo albums containing the group photographs from the time I was born until present day and all 25 of us, all different incarnations of me linger there in the cat-o-nine tails and the swampy ground, around the stream that feeds the lake, with mud-caked feet and a full belly. See, every year each cluster of families is photographed together and those photographs stretch all the way back to the mid 30’s.
Like it’s very existence, the reunion is punctuated by ritual. The potluck lunch is at noon sharp, preceded by a brief thanks given to the Lord for the bounty and nourishment that he’s provided. There is the 50-50 drawing, the meeting to discuss affairs regarding the fiances and future of the reunion, the Chinese auction where my uncle always wins my aunt’s quilt. There are the photo of the families and then there is corn, which has been steaming quietly over fire and under wet burlap sacks the majority of the afternoon.
This year had little to no variation on these themes. Inhaling the sweet, damp air, eating my aunt’s macaroni and cheese, flipping through the albums filled with photographs, and wondering around the lake was like most years before. The sensory input at the reunion, forever unchanging, fulfills and marks the beginning of August, to mark the beginning of the end of summer.