The Gathering

©2009 Susan Noyes Anderson

The greatest joy in life is found

where love and loyalty abound.

What sweeter sight…what dearer sound

than all the family, gathered round?

For the Andersons, reunions are not only a wonderful thing; they are essential to the health, strength, and unity of our family. The approaching holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year because it guarantees that my immediate family will be together for Thanksgiving and Christmas, with my extended family joining us en masse for either one or the other. Our celebrations are legendary (in our own minds!), and we have established many traditions that we value and cherish.

One of these is “circletime,” so dubbed by my children, who universally enjoy making fun of my various bonding whims. (I believe they were likening the experience to share time in nursery school, which was actually not far from right!) Having said that, this idea turned out to be considerably more than a whim. It’s been going on for about 15 years now and has morphed from a solely Christmas Eve activity to a Christmas, Thanksgiving, family reunion, and special event activity. As the name implies, the whole family sits, sprawls, or stretches out full-length on the floor in a circle. A brief, often poignant story is read, usually one that is written or found by me. The story ends with a thought-provoking and personal question, to be answered by every person in the circle. I wish I could tell you what a beautiful spirit this activity brings; I can absolutely tell you that it has increased our intimacy as a family, allowing us to know one another better. It has also made us more comfortable sharing our feelings and testimonies.

Because Christmas and Thanksgiving come but once a year, we also look forward to our annual family reunion at the beach, with the extended family invited. For the past dozen years, we have stayed in the same place and done essentially the same things every summer, adding to the sense of tradition this vacation brings.

Once children have grown and flown the nest, reunions are the best gift you can give each other. Email, phone, text, and even Skype are great, but nothing fills the heart and replenishes the spirit like face-to-face, one-on-one fun with the people you love most. As a Mormon woman, I believe that families are eternal. As a mother and grandmother, bringing my family together means everything to me.