(left to right, in descending order of seniority: my mother Marge, brother Jim, sister Julie, sister Anneliese, me, brother John, sister Margaret and sister Joan.)

Earlier this month, I traveled down to Tennessee to catch up with my kin. It’s been 14 years since my siblings and I have all been in the same room together; of course we’ve all seen each other in the interim, but we haven’t gathered as a group since my wedding in 1993. Our reunion grew out of a whim a few months ago and rapidly burgeoned into a major clan gathering.

I flew into Nashville in the late afternoon and was met at the airport by my mother, who at 86 years old is still driving. We were supposed to wait for my oldest sister, Julie, who was scheduled to arrive on a flight from Boston, and then head immediately for Crossville to visit my Aunt Julia. However, poor Julie’s flight was canceled and she was forced to spend the night in Boston, so my mom and I drove to Crossville without her.

I have no photos of my visit with Aunt Julia, since like a nitwit I’d forgotten my camera. All the same, we had a good time catching up. My aunt is a retired schoolteacher who never stops learning new things; she is a veritable font of information on just about anything you’d like to know. Since it was late by the time we arrived in Crossville, we didn’t have a lot of time to chat, but we made up for it the next morning when all three of us drove back to Nashville to pick up Julie. Her plane made it this time even though she’d had to connect through Cincinnati. All four of us piled into the car and drove back to Crossville, where we spent a pleasant day shopping and eating. Julie remembered her camera (which was chock full of photos from her recent trip to Europe) and I’m hoping she got some nice photos of my aunt. And will share them (hint, hint?).

The next morning Julie, Mom and I got into the car yet again and headed back west, past Nashville and on to Clarksville, where my mother lives. Also in Clarksville is my youngest sister Joan and her two kids, Nick and Logan. They all came over that evening for dinner and a certain amount of horsing around ensued. John had shipped my camera to me, which was fortunate since I now have a record of all the silliness. This photo is (clockwise from the top) Logan, Julie, me and Joan. Yes, the family resemblance is a bit scary. It’s hard for me to get my mind wrapped around the fact that Logan, who’s always been the youngest of the next generation in my family, is 13 years old. This mean we no longer have any babies around, since, thank goodness, none of my many nephews and nieces have shown any inclination toward procreating yet. I say “thank goodness” out of selfishness because I’m not quite ready to be a Great Aunt yet, and not because my nieces and nephews shouldn’t procreate – although they all carry the family weirdness gene. As an example, here is my nephew Nick in action:

We spent a day in Clarksville shopping and eating, then Julie, Mom and I got back into the car and drove south to Memphis, followed by Joan and her boyfriend Eric. Halfway there, we stopped to eat. We had hoped to meet up with my sister Margaret, who was driving to Memphis from her home in Raleigh, NC, by way of my Aunt Julia’s in Crossville (Aunt Julia must have felt like the local Dew-Drop Inn). However, Margaret got a late start and called to let us know she was a couple of hours behind us. We pressed on toward Memphis, where the rest of my siblings were gathering: my older brother Jim (who lives there with his longtime companion, Judy), my sister Julie’s husband Steve (who flew in from Boston), their oldest son Christopher (who flew in from California), my sister Liese (who flew in from Lincoln, Nebraska) and my brother John and his wife Barbara (who flew in from Virginia). All of them arrived at the Memphis airport within a couple hours of each other. Liese was staying with our cousin Rikki (who is Aunt Julia’s daughter and who lives in Memphis with her husband Bill); Margaret and Christopher were crashing with Jim and Judy, and the rest of us were at a motel in Germantown, just outside Memphis. Everyone headed to their various crash sites to change clothes and prep for dinner at Rikki and Bill’s, who unbelievably, were actually looking forward to being descended on by Clan Lillard. Let the hugging and foolishness commence:

Naturally, everyone gravitated to the kitchen, where Rikki was preparing many culinary delights. Rikki is half-hidden by brother John in this photo; Julie is giving the camera an apprehensive look while Rikki’s husband Bill lingers nearby; my mother is talking to my sister-in-law Barbara, who is the blonde head in the foreground.

Liese and I catch up on some sisterly lovin’…

…while John gets some maternal cuddles.

And the arrival of the late-comers: Margaret in the doorway, followed by Jim (nephew Christopher is out by the car). The business going on in the foreground is our version of a sword arch, sans swords.

Margaret is displaying her new tattoo to Julie, Rikki and John. I love Rikki’s expression.

A surprise guest: Rikki’s son Zach, who was just going to “stop by” and ended up staying the whole time.

And Margaret and nephew Christopher, putting on their Intrepid Reporter faces:

Manly men doing manly things – Steve, Jim and John.

While I get chummy with my pal Barbara:

Rikki and Bill served up a wonderful dinner, which we devoured with alacrity before setting up a mannerly family photo:

(from top left: Steve, Rikki, John, Margaret, Barbara, Zach, Joan, Eric. From bottom left: me, Chris, Liese, Mom, Julie, Jim – I don’t know where Bill got to.)

Of course, mannerly never last long with this group (Bill is finally visible beside Rikki; I think she’s putting her tongue in his ear):

The next day everyone headed in all directions: Jim, Margaret and Chris went in to WEVL Radio, where Jim has an early-morning radio show; John, Barbara, Julie, Steve and I went down to Beale Street to visit the Rock and Soul Museum, the Gibson Guitar factory and other sights; Joan and Eric took one of those Duck Rides around town, and everyone else recovered from the night before. Some indulged in a dip in the hotel pool:

As evening approached, the clan assembled once again for WEVL’s annual “Blues on the Bluff,” a night of music on the grounds of the Metal Museum, overlooking the Mighty Mississippi. As station manager, Judy was organizing everything and keeping a wary eye on the weather, which was looking kind of ornery.

A storm did blow through and got everything a bit wet, but it only delayed the opening act by an hour. Some of us braved the elements and held onto our reserved tables, but finally everyone arrived to enjoy the music and the view. It was a great evening.

The next morning everyone hurried off in all directions. There was an abortive attempt to have breakfast together, but we couldn’t find a place that could seat such a large group in a timely fashion. Those that had to catch planes hustled to the airport; those that were driving had a quick nosh and then went their separate ways. Julie, Mom and I got back in the car (I drove this time because Mom was tired) and drove home to Clarksville, and the next afternoon Julie and I flew home.

So it was a whirlwind reunion. I wish we’d had a little more time to visit with each other, but it was a logistical nightmare trying to establish the whens and wheres of it all (I have observed on more than one occasion that attempting to get my family on the same schedule is like trying to herd cats). But at least we had a few days of foolish hilarity together. I hope the next time will be sooner than 14 years down the road.


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