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On My Honor: Belonging

by / 0 Comments / 16 View / July 2, 2015

Michael Brown

My mother’s side of the family held their annual reunion last weekend. Usually, there are between 50 and 100 descendants of Joseph Marshall Huey in attendance. For 2015, the group was smaller, and so, a bit more intimate. Two days provides plenty of opportunities to catch up with my cousins; this year, 9 of 18 first cousins attended. We lost James a couple of years ago, so now it’s 17. For me, his death confirms an urgency I feel to come every year to celebrate. We missed Uncle Garland and his family and hope they are able to come in 2016.

Each year brings new milestones. Following my recent hip replacement, I am now, sadly, an official member of the prosthetic group. Those cousins who contemplate such procedures listen carefully to the stories. I watch my older cousins carefully to see what changes I may experience in the next few years. We marvel at the growth rate of the kids. Those who were in diapers last year are now able to ride their bicycles full blast through the adults.

Most of my family members love to play dominoes; in Texas, of course, that’s 42 and 84. I’m a part of those who simply celebrates by roaming around, visiting, and picking at the leftover dishes of food. Eating five or six desserts is common. Visiting with Cousin Paul, I discovered we both traveled to Istanbul this past year, a few months apart. I bought some kilim rugs for $100 each, but the best price he found for a carpet was $8,000.

I suppose every family has its identifying behaviors and physical characteristics. Ours include a fondness for kidding around and pulling practical jokes. I remember the time I “borrowed” Uncle J.D.’s Instamatic camera and took some great photos in the men’s restroom. Blessed genetically, on their right foot, some Hueys have two toes fused together to make one huge toe. I believe there is a photo somewhere proving that genetic connection for about 10 of us.

One of my favorite routines is teaching the younger Hueys how they are related. Amy’s son Travis got the full explanation for why he is a third cousin to my children’s children. Smart kid, he understood it. Others usually give me that “you’re weird” look. I celebrate those moments and hope they talk about me when I’m long gone.

I have a special affection for those who have married into the Huey Clan. They add necessary ingredients to the family soup. I’m very fortunate that both my daughter-in-law and son-in-law come every year. The grandkids are out of diapers, so Mary Kate and Chandler are finally getting to kick back and enjoy figuring out how their partners came to be the people they are.
I’m told that the Huey Family has been meeting for the last 99 years. They’ve actually been in Texas since 1896, coming from Alabama with a banjo on their knees. So, next year’s reunion is a huge cause for celebration. We’re already making big plans. I offered to lead a group at midnight on a tour to the family plot at North Belton Cemetery.

I took a straw poll this year to find out what family members like best about our reunion. The answers range from “playing with cousins” to “when else do I get to be with my brother”. My dear mother just likes to see everyone. For me, it’s the moments I pause to contemplate the sense of belonging. Through compassion and service to one another, familial love and belonging is available to each of us.

Michael Brown is an education consultant and former teacher. He can be contacted at michael.brown@utexas.edu.