Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lewis Family Reunion

The second Saturday in August was always our Lewis family reunion. Grayce Campbell had it at her cottage on Conneaut Lake. Grace's mother, Myrtle Lewis Thompson, was my grandfather, Frank Lewis's first cousin. Just so your head spins a little more and your eyes glaze over with relations, it was the closest we got to my dad's cousins. I don't believe he had any first Lewis cousins. Dad's brother didn't want to have much to do with these relatives because they didn't help out in the Great Depression when their mother was widowed. As my mother and father said, they probably had enough for themselves. Hard to say, but I enjoyed the Lewis relatives and relished seeing the wavy hair in different hues of sandy blond to red.
Myrtle lived downtown in the Thompson apartments. I had a hard time figuring out these relations, if you've read, I had a lot of Thompson in my family. Myrtle married a Thompson, not related to either of my grandmothers, who's maiden name was Thompson, again, not related. Yeah...Grayce's first husband was also a Thompson, but I never met him. I just knew her son, Jack Thompson, yet Grayce was married to Bruce Campbell by then. It took me many years to figure this all out. I hadn't realized Myrtle's maiden name was Lewis for awhile. I visited her sometimes. When I was 17, sporting one of those famous 'fros in the 70's, she said I looked like my grandfather. I always heard he didn't get his wavy hair until he turned a teenager, and I followed that pattern. The 'fro was just an enhancement.
When I was small, Myrtle and other old people sat in chairs on the patio facing the lake. One I believe was Elmer Lewis. I ran around and played in the enclosed dock on their beach. Betty Lewis Black had done the genealogy and it will be at the Marion, OH library. One of the many trips I'll make some day.
One year, Diane swam out to an island not too far from land, but far enough. She reported a "frogman" grabbed her ankle or something like that. Diane fill in...if you please. The seaweed was thick and green, but I still loved the water. A canal edged the side of their property with a curved foot bridge over it. Quite enchanting.
We seemed to not go for awhile, then returned in my later teen years. I really wanted to know my relatives. I visited many once I learned to drive both on Mom and Dad's sides. I pushed for this, although I didn't have to push hard.
Returning to the reunions had a comfort as nothing seemed to change. From the off color sayings in the bathrooms, like the ones you see at roadside shops in tourist areas, the dock, the bridge over the canal and the old people sitting on the front patio.
Later, even after I was married and then took my girls, nothing changed. The Twizzlers in the long glass jar on the counter in the small kitchen separating it from the common room, all windows encompassing the lake. The old people now, though, were my mother, and the cousins my dad's age or older.
We all took lots of food to pass and ate in the yard. The food protected from the sun set up in the garage, with water ski equipment hanging from the rafters. After eating way too much and visiting with everyone you could, the swimmers chose one of the four bedrooms to change into their suits. Grayce's daughter, Jill, took us out in the pontoon boat to the middle of the lake. Conneaut is one of the largest fresh water natural lakes in Pennsylvania and deep. Mom recounted every year how someone always drowns in this lake, but thankfully never during reunion. I guess some years were cool or rainy, but not often. Usually, Pennsylvania had one of those late summer very hot days. To dive into that deep cool lake water from the side of the pontoon boat was one of the greatest reliefs and pleasures I've experienced. No thick green slimy seaweed floating out there. The bright sun beat down on our heads as that cold water sunk into our pores and we breathed delight.
Food put back out after the afternoon of activities for supper. Everyone was so pleasant. No bickering or family fights or slights seemed to surface. We loved watching the children thinking, now who do they look like. Walter Reno, who's mother was a Lewis, is in a picture I took. He is standing just like my dad stood, with hands on his hips. He is short and slight, like Dad's brother and their voice inflections and mannerisms are similar.
Grayce died years ago after having some dementia. Reunions ended when she really started losing her memory. One year they had it at the Reno farm in Hermitage, but that was when I lived in New England and couldn't come home for everything. My niece Megan, now a mother of two, was just a little girl of maybe three at that one.
Three years ago, Walter and Naomi celebrated their 50th wedding reunion at Hickory VFW. That is the closest to family reunion. A week later, my mother died. Many e-mails flew back and forth then.
Walter's sister Dorothy's class was the first graduates of the Hickory High School that then became the middle school. Mary Ellen was the last class to leave that school.
I see Walter sometimes in the mall or around. It's a piece of my Dad's family. I'm amazed at the familiar traits I see.
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