The silver haired skinny guy up front looked like he could be a Greenup County farmer. And he was tall enough to have played basketball in this old gym-turned church that for today was hosting the annual Fourth of July Roberts’ Family Reunion.
It was, according to the tall guy, their 132nd consecutive get together! I did a double take on that one…..and began to count on my fingers. John and Cora Roberts were born in the 1890’s. Their ten children birthed this idea of a yearly get-together-to-love-and-celebrate-family-and-each-other…… Methinks he misspoke, or was given to hyperbole!
Then I remembered we were in Kentucky. Home of Daniel Boone, Henry Clay, Muhammad Ali and birthplace of Abraham Lincoln…… Spinning yarns and exaggerating facts is near ’bout a religion in the Bluegrass State.
This was my 43rd Roberts’ Family Reunion. Which is pretty remarkable seeing as how I’m not actually a Roberts.
But I ate a piece (or two) of Vi Williams’ apple pie years ago and I was hooked. She was one of the ten original children and it got me to thinking….. If they can turn out pie like this, could you imagine the chicken and dumplings? Or the green bean casserole! How about creamed corn! Awww man, I bet they’ve got a separate table just for desserts!
It’s only 819 miles from the house to Ashland, Kentucky. The first few years I showed up looking hungry and I’d help Aunt Jo Ann carry in a pan of fried okra. I’d talk to Uncle Bryan about the war. I’d tell’em about chasing rabbits barefooted through the snow with a sling shot when times were hard back home.
They let me eat all I could hold.
Uncle Ked talked a lot about the family history. Aunt Jackie was a hugging machine. Aunt Nell Ruth seemed to be in charge. She actually kept a list of who was there at each get together. Over the years my name somehow got attached to the family…..
Plus, when they saw how much I could eat……they just naturally figured I OUGHT to be a Roberts!
I could out eat them all…..except for Cousin Randy and Uncle Franklin and Harry Gene and Leland and Pam and Lee and Uncle Bill and Marty and Linda and Ron and Denise….. I’m telling you, these people are professional eaters!
The reunion this year was in Russell, Kentucky. And the old high school was the only building in town big enough to hold us all. I’ll tell you how serious these people are. They held a pre-reunion meal the night before out in the middle of the woods. They had to see if you could eat enough to qualify for the reunion!
We drove through Westwood, Wurtland, Raceland, took a left at Greenup, wound around the Plum Grove Baptist Church…..the GPS system went silent on us….nobody could find this place.
Except for the fifty plus who crowded into Kim and Denver’s house for the meal the night before the meal! You have no idea how serious these people are. I ate a third helping of the strawberry pie and talked mostly to the young folks. I laughed with them, played with them and told a whole new audience about chasing rabbits through the snow……and hoped and prayed they understood and appreciated how fortunate they were to be in this family!
I stayed, as always, at the Lucille Henry Boarding House. She is not a Roberts either but she is awful close. She’ll make you feel like a part of HER family. You have to go to church with her. She’ll take you out to eat. When you go to the reunion, she’ll go along with you. And the best part is, the Boarding House is free!
The tall skinny guy that looked like a farmer made a few announcements, read solemnly the names of the hallowed Roberts that were no longer among us and prayed for the family, the day and the meal.
Aunt Shirley is the only one of the ten brothers and sisters left. I was privileged to eat at her table on this occasion. I studied the lines in her face. The still alert eyes. The smile that wouldn’t go away. The laughter as every family member made their way by to pat her on the shoulder or give her a quick hug.
I used to come to these reunions for the food. I keep coming back for the fellowship, the love and to be with my family…..