The Father’s Day Picnic
The Hiatt Family Reunion, held in and around Norfolk for about forty-five years, was held every year on Father’s Day.
Now everyone is gone. I miss the cousins, the laughter, the Double-KK chiggen, the illicit fireworks. The stories. The introductions. The mosquito bites. The old men playing horseshoes. The babies being changed on the tables in the back. The screams as a family that nobody expected rolled in from California or Texas or some other exotic locale.
Nobody ever called ahead to clear the menu with anyone. Nobody ever said “I’m bringing Jell-O salad” or “I’m going to bring meat loaf” and yet we never had a year when all there was, was cole slaw or chicken or something like that. A Father’s Day Miracle! There was enough for all, and there was always a great variety. Lots of food, lots of drink. Lots of laughter.
It Wasn’t Easy, To Begin
It was an obligation, every year. Mom and Dad made me go. I hated getting ready, and until things really got popping, I hated being there. But then I hated to leave and I was always happy I went. One year, I took my new girlfriend, Doreen. She was nervous about “meeting the family” but seemed to relax and open up as she realized we were all just folks. All everyone talked about was how pretty she was and how grown-up I’d become.
It was fun watching the kids grow up. Some of us would only see one another that one time every year, unless someone died or got married. It was sad noticing the empty spaces, as an old aunt or uncle would pass away… and people would tell the very best stories about the ones who had passed, and speak so very highly of whatever dish they used to bring. And wonder who got the recipe.
We started out in some little community building south and west of the airport. I don’t think I could find it today—if it’s even still there. In later years, we moved to Ta Ha Zouka Park. When I was seven or ten years old it was a grand party with dozens and dozens of people there. The last one I went to was, I think, the very last one. And it was kind of sad because there were so few of us left who cared, or so few of us left.
I miss it. I miss the people. I miss the endless hugs. I miss the endless, “What are you learning in school, Mark?” questions, and “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And god bless Doreen, for she finally put an end to the “Do you have a girlfriend?” questions.
I had a really good family. And we told great stories and gave great hugs and man, we could cook. I miss them all….