May 8, 2015
Today would have been my Dad’s 96th birthday. This past Saturday, my older son Tommy married Randall Johnston in Little Rock, Arkansas. These are just the two most prominent reasons I’m thinking about my family today.
“Family” has an odd etymological history. It has a Latin root, but familia refers to the servants of a household. The Romans would have used domus (think “domestic”) to refer to parents with their children. No matter. Today we use the term to refer to the connected network of parents and children, sometimes meaning a smaller group of those living together, sometimes meaning a more multi-generational sprawling group. This picture puts my family in dramatic focus for me:
There are twenty-seven of us here in a photo taken at Tommy and Randall’s wedding: three generations of Bennetts and Evans and those to whom we’ve made connections. (My Mom, Roberta Evans, had one brother, Sam. Both Sam and Roberta had three children.) I’m here with my wife Ellen and our sons Tommy and Robbie. My first wife, Dulany (Tommy’s mother) is here, too, along with her sister Kathy and Kathy’s husband Karl. My sister Nancy is here with her partner, Jim; Nancy’s daughter Lindsay, son-in-law Jeremy, and their daughters Lydia and Eliza. (Missing — they left too early to be in this photo) are Nancy’s daughter Karen, son-in-law Steve, and their daughter Emily Grace.) My sister Kate is here with her husband Wayne and their daughter Julia. My cousin Anne Evans is here, though her husband Steve is not. My cousin Tom Evans is here though not his wife Cyndi. Tom’s son Elijah is here with his wife Megan, and Tom’s daughter Sarrah is here with her husband Ali and their sons Idris and Naim. Joining us as family for the first time are Randall, her mother Marcela and her sister Blair.
(Also not here: Tom and Anne’s sister Deb, her husband Wayne, their children Chad and Jan; Dulany and Kathy’s brother Joe; Nancy’s first husband George; Jim’s first wife: all deceased. Plus Tom’s first wife and Kate’s first husband; Jim’s children, spouses and their children; Wayne’s daughters, spouses and their children; Marcela’s brother Glen, his wife and children. I can’t begin to account for various spouses’ brothers and sisters, their partners and children. And also not here: my Bennett cousins. Dad’s brother John’s wife, children, grandchildren: we’ve drifted away from them even as the Bennett-Evans connection has strengthened.)
There are three generations pictured here. Of the parents of the oldest generation here, only Ellen’s mother Anne and Dulany’s mother Ginny are still alive.
In the 1960s, such an Evans-Bennett photo would have pictured a group all of who lived in Rochester, Norristown or Bloomsburg (PA). Now we live sprawled across the U.S.: Topsham and Portland, Maine, D.C., New Jersey, central Pennsylvania, Rochester, New Orleans, Little Rock, Portland Oregon, Providence (RI). It takes a celebration such as the Tommy-Randall wedding to bring us together.
A particular joy for all of us this weekend (along with the wedding activities) was watching the youngest children play together: Robbie, Lydia and Eliza, Idris and Naim, and Emily Grace. When they are older, what will such a photo look like?
It is good to be among family.