If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’ll remember that in 2013, I was anxiously planning the first Schmitzer Family Reunion of my lifetime. I think back on those weeks and months leading up to the Big Hoorah, and there are so many moments, so many thoughts, so many conversations that were never recorded. So many tidbits began in beautiful fashion, with well-defined shapes and edges that sparkled and held us captive, only to melt away in the palm of our hand. We lose so much. So quickly.
A dear friend of mine named Liesl came to the 2013 Reunion as an honorary member of our Clan. With a good German family like ours, Liesl and I joked that if anyone asked who she was, she should just say, “Oh, Aunt Thekla! Don’t you remember me? I’m Johann’s girl!” And believe me, we have many Johann’s in the pages of our history. She looked the part, and if she’d played the part, no one would’ve been the wiser.
Liesl had a purpose, however. A woman with an impeccable eye and a habit of grabbing exquisite candids, she was there to capture the Reunion in photographs. And she did, quite well, I might add. When we arrived home, she asked me for a list of the names of everyone who attended the Reunion. She had been working on a lovely cross-stitch pattern depicting the cross of the Christian faith. As she continued working on it, she felt led to stitch a border around the piece, carefully spelling out the names of everyone who attended our first Reunion.
We framed Liesl’s beautiful work and I’ve been holding onto it, not sure where it belongs.
As we began really hunkering down on planning the 2016 Reunion, Mom suggested that we bring a photo of the group along with the framed cross-stitch as a sort of souvenir display of that first Reunion. As we talked more, we thought it would be nice, each year, to have one project or craft that commemorates the Reunion. I am sorry to say we didn’t do anything for 2014, but I may still have an idea–I’ll keep you posted on it. We didn’t hold a Reunion in 2015. And so we began poring over the interwebs to find a great idea for 2016. And boy, did we find it!
I stumbled into the idea when I was perusing Pinterest one evening. The original (found here) was used at a wedding, but I was so excited to apply this to our family heritage. I reached out to Jen, a friend of mine with amazing art skills, and she gave us a beautiful tree to adorn! The idea is to have everyone stamp their finger or thumb print somewhere on a branch of the tree, symbolizing our common heritage (the tree!) and ancestry (our roots!). I could tell you how it turned out, or I could show you and let you tell me how it turned out! I will say, I’m very pleased!
I would like some feedback from any friends or family or random passersby, however. This year, we lost two men in the family very close to the Reunion. I want to commemorate them, but it obviously doesn’t seem right to put them on a fingerprint leaf with everyone else. I thought it might be nice to do a few fingerprint hearts down near the base of the tree, and write in each one the name of someone who has passed on since our last gathering. I’ve made some on white paper just to set down and get an idea of how it would look. What do you think, gang?
And speaking of those we lost this year, I saw this memorial candle idea on Pinterest, also, and felt it would be a very comforting and appropriate way to honor not only the lives of those no longer with us, but also to recognize the sorry and struggle of gathering without them. As with most projects, I wanted to be sure that the sign had a personal touch to it, not a generic “I printed this ten minutes ago with TimesNewRoman font” feel. For this, I reached out to my amazing niece, Hannah Lynne, and asked her to draw something artsy but not over-the-top–just a nice sign to help us remember those we’ve lost. I dare say, she did a fantastic job. I’m very happy with how this turned out also, paired with an LED-candled lantern from W-mart (open flame candle in a beautiful, green, tree-filled park didn’t seem like a great plan).
I hope some of these ideas help anyone out there who’s planning a get-together. It’s so nice to have “props” to help tie everything together. We sometimes forget words, but images and tangibles help us with recall.