Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Aug. 3, 2007

Invest in family

"Don't worry about the stock market. Invest in family."

I had to smile. My fortune cookie's advice was strangely appropriate, considering my family and I had just returned from a Freeland family reunion in Los Angeles.

The entire Edgar Freeland family - 17 of us - were among the 40 in attendance. It's probably one of the few times - maybe the only time - we'll be able to do that. Some of us live in Kansas, my nephews and families live in the Dallas area and my sister Gaila and family live in Bolivia. Looking at the sheer distance and adding in the busy-ness of our lives, it's a wonder we were able to pull it off.

While Uncle Bob, whose wife Iris was just out of the hospital, could only be with us a short time, many of us set aside a week for the event.

Brother Dave and wife Linda, Gaila and husband Humberto and their two daughters, our two daughters and I spent the first day in Disneyland. Daughter Katie commented she wasn't sure if we did it for them or for ourselves. Throughout the day, the girls commented how "cute" it was that we "old people" were excited about the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise, the Monorail, Space Mountain and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. They knew we were trying to recapture our youth, thinking back to the visits we made when we were their age and younger.

All the while, husband Art was doing some of the things he likes best - checking out new territory, window-shopping in electronics stores and relaxing at the hotel.

Another day was spent at the beach, enjoying the sand and sea, searching for shells and sampling seafood. Some went to Hollywood, played miniature golf or visited wine country. Art and I explored the San Juan Capistrano mission and its gardens.

While these activities were fun, for the older members of the clan, the reunion day was the key event. We compared photos and family group sheets, shared letters, reminisced about times and people gone by, and caught up on each other's lives.

Art and I had put together a DVD of the family history to show how we are connected. Art thought it would be fun to have the story told by William Freeland, my great grandfather. Art narrated it as if he were William, explaining the reunions were started by wife Mary Hillyer's family more than a century before and that the family origins go back to Ireland and Scotland. Then "William" explained how we were all connected. He ended by saying how happy he was to see that we were carrying on the tradition.

Of William and Mary's eight grandchildren, only two remain - Uncle Bob, the patriarch of the family at almost 92, and Uncle Stan, who, with his wife Kay, organized the reunion.

At lunch, Kay had each of us introduce ourselves and talk about our favorite memories of our family. Many talked about the Freeland farm - eating fresh corn and strawberries from the garden, "swimming" in the cattle tank on hot summer days, helping with chores, enjoying each other's company. Even the youngest attendee, my two-month-old great-nephew Chase, sported a T-shirt with "Freeland Family Farm, Burns, Kansas, Est. 1902" on the back.

When my turn came, I looked out at my immediate and extended family members - and the tears started welling up. I thought about how much my family means to me and how much I miss those who are no longer with us. I was especially thinking of Dad, the quiet middle brother between Bob and Stan. He loved being around his family, and I knew he would have really enjoyed the occasion.

I stood there unable to say what was in my heart, watching the emotions I was feeling playing on the faces of my loved ones. Then Aunt Kay came to my rescue. She asked me to talk about my work, my hobbies, recent trips - anything to fill in the silence. I laughed through my tears and gave her a hug. She deserves the credit for getting us together this year. She came up with the idea in 2005 and she and Stan had worked on it ever since.

I treasure that reunion week which gave us a chance to relax, remember those who have gone before and re-connect with those we still have. For some, a week out of a busy summer may seem like a lot to set aside. But for me, considering past returns, this investment was well worth it.

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