The Importance of Family Reunions – White Family Style

Shortly after marrying Aaron I found out we would be attending his family reunion. I smiled gamely, but inwardly was cringing. Family reunions just weren’t something I was super excited about.

I was very surprised when I few days later as we were discussing plans the girls started expressing their excitement about going. Before long they started telling stories of past reunions and all the fun memories they had.

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Aaron had told me that the White Family Reunions were fun, but when my then 12 and 14 year old step-daughters were excited to attend I decided they must actually be fun and changed my attitude pretty quick.

I just got back from my third White Family Reunion and must say they are still a lot of fun.

This year attending the reunion was a big sacrifice. Ella was only eight weeks old and to complicate matters my sister-in-law Larissa had a 3 month old baby and a three year old toddler. Her husband wasn’t able to attend, so earlier in the year Aaron and I had told her that is she wanted to come, we would make it happen.

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So last Thursday we packed up our truck with three babies and three adults. Our older kids came in separate vehicles, so we made quite a caravan.

Typically Aaron and I camp, but with two newborn decided to rent an RV. We ended up renting a pop-up camper through rvshare (website for renting RV’s from private owners) which was awesome.

Having the camper made all of the difference for us when caring for the babies.

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The reunion was a blast. We glamped it up at Kaibab Lake near Willliams Arizona. The lake was too low for fishing this year, but was still beautiful. We did some light fishing at nearby Cataract Lake (we didn’t catch anything), spent some time shooting, did some light hiking, lots of time talking and wandered through Williams.

It was just a fun relaxing weekend. Ella had a whole bunch of cousins in the 9-12 age range who fought over holding her pretty much non-stop. The girls in particular were fascinated by her, they wanted to help me with everything. They chose her outfits, changed her diapers, fed her and just loved her. As a new mom it made such a difference to have so much help particularly on a camping trip.

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On the way home, we got stuck in a 2 ½ hour traffic jam in 110 degree heat. Since we were towing and at a complete standstill the truck kept overheating so we had to turn off the A/C. Needless to say it was a miserable time with all the babies.

Even with all of the issues, I’m still really glad that we were able to attend.

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As we were stuck in traffic the three of us began talking about family and why these reunions were so important. In Aaron’s family, the older generation is almost gone. Over the years attendance at the reunions has slowly declined and we were concerned that with the passing of the older generations the reunions would gradually die out.

Not a lot of families take the time to have huge multi-generational reunions. I don’t know how many people attended this particular reunion, but guess it was over 150. In the past attendance has been over 300 and if everyone attended they could easily have between 400-500 people come.

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I’m an in-law and don’t even know a fraction of the people, but have been so impressed with the warm welcome and love I’ve received each time I’ve gone. For me the reunions are about the people. I love being able to talk to people and renew friendships. This reunion was particularly fun since everyone was so excited to meet Ella.

I want the reunions to continue in part as a memorial to the older generations. This particular reunion is in commemoration of Weaver and Naomi White. They had 10 children. I’m not sure how many kids each of them had, but in Aaron’s line his parents have nine kids, 16 grandkids and one great grandchild. Aaron can’t even remember how many cousins he has.

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As we were driving home, we were discussing what made the reunions successful and narrowed it down to three things.
The White Reunion is held every other year and the family of one of the ten kids is responsible for choosing the location and all of the planning each year. This means that each family is only responsible every 20 years. Obviously not all families are large enough to spread out the responsibility to this level, but it makes it much easier to keep the tradition alive when the responsibility is spread so evenly.

Typically the reunions are held in the southern Utah, northern Arizona area, but every twenty years they are done in Oklahoma since one of the family lines is in that area.

The reunion are always held at a set weekend in June which makes it easy to plan in advance. I can pull up a calendar and tell you exactly when each reunion will be for the next couple of years.

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The most important reason the reunions are successful is because family comes first. The White’s can be hot heads and there have been multiple fights and altercations at the reunions. But regardless of the various personalities, family always comes first.

I know that not everyone wants to have reunions or even spend time with family, but I’m so happy that Aarons family has re-instilled in me the importance of family reunions – as crazy as they may be.

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