Julia Hamilton

Relatively Speaking

Julia Hamilton
Relatively Speaking

In an unsurprising turn of events, I am writing about my family again.

This time, though, I’m throwing the spotlight on the other side, my mom’s people, who had a reunion last weekend. While the Hamiltons do one reunion per year like clockwork, the Majors folk only really get it together to reunite once every five years or so. Granted, this is largely because that side of the family's homes are more geographically spaced out than the Hamiltons', but you could say they're pretty spaced-out as individuals too. My maternal relatives are the printmakers and painters to my paternal pediatricians and professors--free wheelin’ on one side versus stalwart tradition on the other. Basically, they’re just a bunch of weirdos, each with their own brand of bizarre. There’s an aunt who slays on the accordion, an ex-juvenile delinquent who never grew up, a videographer with a focus on zombie pub crawls, a fierce lady who makes music as Thunder Thighs, a carpet-cleaner/drummer, a peace-corps volunteer, a children's music teacher, and an engineer with a proclivity for survivalist podcasts. I could go on.

We gathered last weekend in a spirit of joy and silliness, with a sad eye toward the empty seats of absent relatives, and caught each other up on our lives over two coolers of beer and a kitchen full of wine, which we replenished daily at this event center that may or may not have prohibited alcohol. We ran the lifeguard ragged when we accidentally broke just about every one of the lake rules, and relatives with small children had to move to rooms farther away from the main lodge when jam sessions lasted too far into the night. During a “challenge course” that was far more organized and teambuilding-focused than we had anticipated, we failed every task except when instructed to sing “Row Row Row Your Boat,” which we belted out in raucous rounds. We helped an aunt finish her jewelry for a show while bobbing along to Bette Midler, and Mammy repeatedly wrangled every child within in a 50-foot radius to participate in her “skit” that entailed brandishing hand-drawn signs in time to a lightly secularized hymn. I wouldn’t say that they ever carried it out 100% correctly, but the energy was definitely there.

My favorite parts of the weekend, though, were the periods of inactivity, just face-to-face around a table. One result of only geting together twice per decade is that we see each other's development happen in leaps and bounds. The Hamiltons can document family changes as they come at each year’s lake weekend, but the Majors witness growth all at once, which gives us plenty to discuss. Plus, since I attended this year’s reunion as a legally-drinking recently-graduated woman, I felt more accepted as an adult than ever before. Older aunts, great-aunts, uncles, and great-uncles let their guard down the minute they saw me crack open a beer, and I got to hear new jokes, old feuds, constant worries, and the occasional insecurity. I felt something like an equal, which is still new to me in familial settings, as the youngest cousin of my generation by a solid three years. It’s a development that I appreciate, one that makes me feel like a real part of the family, rather than a little straggler--very much loved, but a few years behind. Now, though, I’m in it. I’m a Majors thanks to Mom, and I’m a Hamilton thanks to Dad.

Seeing my two families within a month of each other let me enjoy and compare my these roots more closely than usual. Ultimately, my Majors blood is what flushes my cheeks, makes my fingertips swell after a long walk, and kicks my heart into a furor from time to time, while the Hamilton half keeps everything flowing faithfully, maintains each artery, and holds a steady rhythm. I love both halves, and couldn’t grow on without them, not as long as my heart keeps pumping. Too cheesy? Too late.

Thanks y’all.