Last evening, as Stuart and I came into Union Station by train here in Chicago, we followed two young Amish families. They walked rapidly, carrying a matching powder blue luggage set without wheels, assorted other bags, and several babies. The men wore black hats. The women black bonnets, black hose, and long dresses.

Stuart speaks with his first cousin at the Rhodes Reunion -- name tags necessary!

Stuart, on left,  speaks with his first cousin at the Rhodes Reunion — name tags necessary!

Everyone around us was intent on getting somewhere, and costumes vary wildly in a large city, so no one stared at them.

They didn’t know that we were spiritual “cousins,” because no one looking at us could tell outwardly that we are Mennonite.

Nevertheless, when I see Amish people, I smile. We share a faith with family feeling.

The Rhodes Reunion this summer made that feeling palpable. Four hundred fifty-five people gathered as descendents of the same two people — Stuart’s grandparents. You can read the story and see the pictures here. You have to see the picture of that pie table!

I’d love to hear your family reunion story. Do you share this tradition?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Laurie Buchanan on July 22, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Shirley – I enjoyed your photographs and guest post over at Not Quite Amish.

    Our last family reunion (dad’s side), was held at my Uncle Lawrence’s 80-acre farm. We enjoyed tractor-pulled hay rides, he’d set up a “zip line” (of sorts) between two silos (with a rented inflatable bag for those who didn’t make it across), he had stilts and a unicycle for us all to try, a go cart to race around the fields in, and we played “cutthroat” Bingo — done with auction-style speed, I was the “caller.”

    I can assure you that when it comes to meals, the Hunter family gives a whole new meaning to the term “super size.”

    • shirleyhs on July 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      So that’s where you get your verve, humor, and imagination, Laurie — the Hunter family. What an amazing time that must have been.

      At least you worked off some Super Sized reunion food with all that physical activity. The adults at the Rhodes reunion were a much more staid bunch.

      I love hearing different stories, showing many varieties of family.

  2. Kas Sartori on July 22, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    We don’t enjoy as large a group as you mentioned, but every year my Burns (my maiden name) family gathers at San Clemente Beach in California for a 4-day weekend together. This coming weekend happens to be our reunion.
    Some of us live close to the beach so we don’t stay overnight but instead trek down there on different days. In the end, probably 50 people visit during the weekend, and we always have a bonfire on Sat. night while toasting hot dogs and marsh mellows as the sun sets in a gorgeous sky painted in glowing colors. I look forward to our “togetherness” every year!

    Kas Sartori

    • shirleyhs on July 22, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      The fact that you spend four days together and that you look forward to doing so says a great deal, Kas. Since you have your reunion this weekend, I’ll think of you toasting marshmallows by the beach. Sounds so peaceful and beautiful. Thanks for sharing that image, and have a lovely time.

  3. Elfrieda Schroeder on July 22, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    I am the second oldest child (oldest daughter) in a family of eight children, five girls and three boys. My dad absolutely loved family reunions. The last one we had with them was their 60th wedding anniversary in the year 2000, but the fiftieth, in 1990 was the best one because both of our parents were still in good health at that time and enjoyed every minute. They had 20 grandchildren ranging in age from 5 months to 20 years old. Of these 20 grandchildren 17 were girls. The oldest grandchild, our son passed away in 1969 one day after he was born. Now we mostly get together as sisters. We all live in the same city, but our brothers are in Australia, Texas and Alberta, so we see them rarely. Our parents passed away in 2005 and 2008. We miss them and keep their memory alive in different ways.

    • shirleyhs on July 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      Your father’s love of the family reunion keeps him with you every time you gather. So interesting that the sisters remain together and the brothers are scattered. And that you have so many granddaughters and few grandsons. Any lost children or parents are missed especially much when the ones remaining gather. May you find many ways to keep their memories alive. I’m honored that you shared some of these with me, Elfrieda.

  4. Richard Gilbert on July 22, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Shirley, so neat to get the quiet-solidarity-fellow-feeling of a Mennonite toward her Amish brethren. Reunions on my mother’s side of the family felt a lot like Stuart’s must now, at least they did to a kid!

  5. shirleyhs on July 22, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    I can see little boy Richard, shyly peeking from around some safe place to see if he could find something or someone familiar — but not just for security. He wanted a perch where he could absorb impressions and continue to let his curiosity grow. A writer was always a special kind of child, don’t you think?

  6. Elaine Mansfield on July 23, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    I can see it, Shirley. I watched an extended Amish family support their baby when we were in close quarters. Both my husband and the baby were enduring a stem cell transplant, and the little one had a difficult time of it.

    I feel this communion with my meditation community. I have a small biological family and we don’t have reunions or shared beliefs. I also feel a sense of family when I see the Dalai Lama or a few other teachers, but it must be amazing to share spiritual beliefs with people you’ve known all your life..

    Thank you for taking me to the family reunion.

  7. Shirley Hershey Showalter on July 23, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    You are part of an Amish community too, Elaine. A stem cell transplant would have a way of binding people together no matter what their culture or religion. I feel for all of you who went through that intense kind of time together.

    I’m so glad you have a meditation community. You can commune “with sighs too deep for words.”

    Glad you could join the family at the reunion this way. Too bad you can’t taste the pie!

  8. Sharon Lippincott on July 23, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Wow, and I thought it was some big deal to gather with our three children/two spouses and six grandchildren for a couple of days was a big deal. Logistically it was.I salute the efforts that went into pulling this reunion off.

    • shirleyhs on August 1, 2014 at 7:37 am

      You are so right about coordination and effort, Sharon. The family actually uses some modern technologies that help make the task easier. Some have email and cell phones. But it still takes lots of people working together to get it done. Like a barn raising. :-0

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