Jeff 2021 headshot

Our summer ended with a much-needed family reunion along the shores of the Gulf Coast. Almost three dozen members of the Peace family – my mom’s side – began arriving shortly before dinner on a gorgeous Saturday evening. Family from across the country came for a week-long gathering of remembrance and celebration. And yes, everyone over the age of 12 was vaccinated.  

    There hadn’t been this many kinfolks of mine under the same roof in quite some time and my oh my how I enjoyed it.  

    I am the oldest of 12 cousins. Growing up we saw each other a pretty good bit, gathering every Thanksgiving and Christmas at Grandma’s house in Florence. Dirty Santa was a tradition played by all, but for the cousins, our tradition came after sunset when we retreated to a local hotel for an all-night game of poker with our Christmas money. It wasn’t for the faint of heart.

    In the 90s, Grandma formed the Peace Family Investment Club. She provided the money and for the next ten years we would meet quarterly to learn about and invest in the stock market. I think it was her brilliant way to still see us all several times a year.

    When Grandma passed away in 2005, the chaos of life and logistics made seeing each other difficult, and we usually all gathered only when someone was getting married or buried.

   But thanks to my sister with a little help from others, a plan was hatched during a family Zoom meeting last year.

    Jenny located a house that would comfortably accommodate 40 and the oldest generation wrote a check. The cousins, including myself, took responsibility for the meals, and the grandkids - some almost adults themselves - were told to just have fun.

    The week consisted of conversations and companionship as we spent the time relaxing, taking walks, and watching the youngest generation really connect.

    The stories, the laughs, the memories and a nod to those no longer with us. We reminisced over photos and solved jigsaw puzzles. There were cornhole competitions and chess matches. Swimming and fishing. Customized Jeopardy and other games that entertained for hours. We followed the Olympics and saw a water spout.

    There is video evidence of mom cannonballing in the pool to the chant of grandkids. And the food - so many delicious homecooked meals.

    Don’t hate. We even took the family beach photo wearing matching t-shirts, something I swore I’d never do.

    Adult smiles, children’s laughter – my heart is full. Plans are already in the works for a repeat next year. I can’t wait.