Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cousins (Re)united!

I'm not much of a Facebooker but I have to admit it played a role in bringing the Nute cousins and childhood playmates to Athens, Georgia last weekend for the first gathering in about fifty years. Those were different times, when TV was black and white if you had one, families gathered on Sundays, and the kids played outdoors until after dark. Back then, we lived in rural and small town Ohio and Kentucky. Family counted on family, but these days we have scattered across the country, raised our families, had our careers.

Those of us gathering in Georgia were grandchildren of Raymond and Alice, both bluebloods from New England tracing their ancestry back to the Mayflower in 1620 and the Dover Colony in 1631, all spending their lives in New England until Raymond graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the couple left for the Kentucky in about 1918 with my father in tow.

They had five children, one died in infancy, and the remaining four were our parents - Raymond Jr., Jeannette, Donald, and Barbara.

The siblings grew up in Valley Station, Kentucky, a very rural area of Kentucky. The life of a farmer and agricultural agent seemed to suit our grandfather well, but looking at my grandmother's scrapbooks and finery in photos I've wondered whether she didn't miss the society of Fall River, Massachusetts.

Raymond and Alice moved to Lewis County, Kentucky, in the late 1930's, and after the war Raymond, Jr., and Donald returned here, Barbara lived in northern Kentucky, and Jeannette married and settled in northern Ohio. The family of cousins was young, but growing.

Here in this photo, left to right, my brother Ray III, me, and our cousins George and Donald (sons of Jeannette), are already budding around. It was one of these times I put a bush berry up my nose, still a memorable event and probably my brother's idea.

Our father moved the family to northern Ohio close to Jeannette's family in 1950 when Kentucky didn't offer enough post-war job opportunities, but we had frequent family visits to Kentucky. Once the cousins left for colleges we all seemed to lose touch. I was the first to go away in 1960, age 16 - which seemed so old at the time.

Fast forward fifty years, we have reconnected and gathered at the home of Jane and Don Nute, named after his father, and not to be confused with Donald Vasbinder, whose mother Jeannette named him after her brother. It is also home to The Lake Town and Shire Garden Railroad, an amazing Lord of the Rings landscaped and railed back yard that was a hit with all of us, grown ups and kids alike.

Of the four original siblings - Raymond, Jeannette, Donald, and Barbara, only one is still living - Jeannette at age 89 and still sharp and quick at the wit as the family are wont to be. Our mother, Ramona, age 96, who had been married to Raymond was there. Both matriarchs came for the cousins' reunion.

Each of the four siblings had representative offspring - all four of Raymond's kids, including Patty and me, two of Jeannette's three children, one of Donald's two children, and Barbara's only child. And these offspring brought offspring who had more offspring. Cousins were coming out of the woodwork!

Grandchildren of Raymond and Alice, minus two - Alice Jane, daughter of Donald, and George, son of Jeannette:

Children of Raymond, including PatandKathie, in a rare total sibling photo as we are scattered from East to West Coast and in between.

We had an entire day of becoming reacquainted, letting the next two generations get to know each other, soaking in the southern hospitality of Don and Jane, and making plans for next year's gathering -- Alice Jane and George mark your books! We're going to Maryland, heart of the East Coast Civil War battles!


Pat said...

And wasn't that a fun time? Hot as Hades, but Don and Jane were such wonderful hosts - and that railroad is out of this world fabulous!

Next time, though, could you photoshop my legs a little darker? :)

Katharine said...

Ah tell it lik it iz.