Family reunion season is officially over.

For the uninitiated, there’s nothing like a family reunion. Sometime between Memorial Day and Labor Day, families come together to reconnect, give thanks, see how much folks have grown and changed, and sport color-coordinated T-shirts to symbolize unity and be family. And family reunions are also not for the faint of heart.

The Broaddus family reunions take place in August and food is the centerpiece of the family. True family reunion professionals know to fix their “to go” plates when they first arrive (put in the cooler you conveniently have in the trunk of your car) and THEN when you leave, too. Fried chicken, ribs, jerk chicken, green beans, chitlins, pork and beans, greens, macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes. If it was once a meat, it got barbecued. And then come the desserts, as everyone lines up to show out their family recipes (my grandmother passed before telling anyone the recipe for any of her pies).

More importantly, family reunions strengthen the roots of the ties that binds us as family. We honor the patriarchs and matriarchs, remembering those that came before as a part of where you came from and the struggles we’ve come through. Our elders are the quality control inspectors of the family. They set the tone for conduct, and they teach about learning to love and respect one another, often putting their fragile health in jeopardy to attend. That example alones speaks to the importance of family reunions. And then I realized that I’m one generation away from being the patriarch of the family.

Sure, there’s the bickering, the gossiping, the politics, (uh, not in our family, I’m speaking about OTHER families), but it’s been wonderful seeing the play cousins we’ve come up with take the leadership roles in the family.

You can’t always choose your family, but you weren’t raised in a vacuum either. For better or worse, family has defined us. Besides, only at a family reunion could I hear from my cousin “I read you every week in I never knew you were smart.”

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