By Taralyn Parker

taralyn author pic

There’s a magic that comes from family gatherings – reunions, Sunday dinners, and lunch-time dates. Time well-spent connecting, laughing, belonging, crying, and remembering. During the past year, we’ve had to get creative with how we’ve gathered. While we’ve been apart Zoom family dinners, drive-through graduations, Facebook groups, and Marco Polo conversations have kept us connected.  

Whether virtual or in-person, we all need human connection. Those touchpoints remind us who we are and who we came from. Growing up it was Sundays with the grandparents and cousins, birthday dinners at my favorite restaurant, and yearly camping trips to Cherry Hill (the family has been going since my Dad was a kid!)

What are the family traditions that mean the most to you, that you have the fondest memories of? Are there ones you have continued or others you’ve needed to let go?

family gatherings

I’m lucky to come from a family of gatherers. My Grandma Kimball had lunch dates with her sisters on Tuesdays for whoever was in town. I loved that about her – her sisters were her best friends.

Similarly, I have friends/aunts/cousins/first cousins once-removed (like Monta!) who are natural gatherers or who work really hard at it! They are key pieces in our family puzzles – the ones who bring us all together. While I love family history and family connections, I am not a natural hostess/gatherer. I have a sister-in-law who lives nearby who is! It’s something I admire about her – I am definitely working on being better at it myself.

Who are the gatherers in your family? The ones who plan the family dinners and keep the reunions going? Is it you? If so, you are vitally important to your family dynamics. Part of family history is strengthening our own family relationships. When we provide opportunities for multiple generations to connect, we are doing family history. We are living it! Our gatherings will be the stuff that the next generation’s memories are made of and plant the seeds for their own gatherings in the future.

I’ll never forget conversations I had with my Grandpa Trost about family reunions. He was the biggest cheerleader for yearly reunions – my Grandma was, too. He alluded to the Field of Dreams concept, “if you build it they will come.” Grandpa went to many a high school reunion as well as multiple family reunions a year. I am blessed by his example. It’s trickled down to my children now, too. They won’t let me skip our yearly reunion! My children have grown up alongside my cousin’s children and even my dad’s cousin’s grandchildren.  

Getting together with your family can help you or other family members feel less lonely, feel more connectedness and remind them that they’re a part of something much bigger

Has it been a while since you really connected with your family – especially with the pandemic? The 21 Day Family Connections Experiment this month is all about helping you to deepen your family ties and create moments that matter. Getting together with your family can help you or other family members feel less lonely, feel more connectedness and remind them that they’re a part of something much bigger, it can also create happy memories, create opportunities for forgiveness and opportunities to find and give extra support.

There are so many fun ideas to help you plan an in-person or virtual reunion! Whether you like posting family videos to Facebook groups or sharing family stories around the campfire, there are plenty of ideas to get your wheels turning. Check it out here.

I am so grateful for my friends and family members who excel at gathering and make sure it is a priority. Crowded tables full of laughter and stories are my favorite! Just as important, crowded tables with listening ears and shared sorrows have blessed my life. This song has been on repeat in my mind lately. May we all gather those we love a little closer around us this year!

Crowded Table By Highwomen

The door is always open
Your picture’s on my wall
Everyone’s a little broken
But everyone belongs
Yeah everyone belongs

I want a house with a crowded table
And a place by the fire for everyone
Let us take on the world while we’re young and able
And bring us back together when the day is done
And bring us back together when the day is done


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