I went to a family reunion a few weeks past. Lots of driving for four hours of family time. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
There are people in our life who anchor us. There are places we remember that call us back. I needed to find that anchor and those memories again.
The Murphy clan is not an ushy, gushy share your feelings type of people. Like many with Minnesota roots feelings are acknowledged to be part of the human condition but just not shared in public. Our family isn’t particularly nosy so gatherings are relatively safe and tempers only flare up when contesting who’s closer in bocce ball or whether one is safe or out on the softball field.
But they are my people.
We gather together where we’ve always gathered. We go to Hermantown, to Mary’s place. Mary is my aunt. She’s lived in the same house all of her life. She's never wanted to live anyplace else. For me, it evokes a 'sense of place' that is sacred in my memory.
The simple brick home was built in 1937 as part of FDR’s plan to help end the depression. The rules were simple. The head of household needed to be working but the family still needed to qualify as being poor. And the family had to be willing to ‘work’ the ten acres allotted them. So my grandfather and grandmother and their four boys found a home. A few years later my aunt Mary was born. The original 1,000 sq. ft., three bedroom home has seen no expansion. It is what it was for the most part except for some needed interior remodeling.
The family is larger now but only four live in Hermantown. And the rest of us are scattered. We’ve had marriages and divorces, births and deaths, disappointments and intrigue. Mary Murphy is running for her eighteenth consecutive term as a state legislator. My family consists of pipefitters, ski champions, a liquor store owner, ministers (that’s me), teachers, principals, government workers, milk truck drivers, financial planners, a lawyer, business people, a school counselor in training, executive assistants, a social worker, a nurse, bartenders, a realtor, writers, a radio talk show host …and more.
Out of a tiny home in a tiny place in northern Minnesota our family has degrees of varying stripes from St. John’s, St. Benedict, St. Scholastica, American University, Fairfield, St. Louis, Wisconsin, Georgetown, Loyola Chicago, Illinois, Hope, Missouri, National Louis, Bowling Green, UNLV, and Moody. In the next few years we'll have a UMD and Minnesota grad.
Our family is filled with athletes and musicians, readers and wonderers. My aunt would die if she thought we had spawned Republicans (she introduced me to Hubert Humphrey back in the day) although I'm quite sure both red and blue our represented in our midst. We have stay-in-one place types and those who like to wander. Some love God deeply. Others probably not. It's a Catholic family for the most part but some, like me, have chosen other Christian pathways.
It's not about the degree or the job as we all know. It's not about political persuasion or sense of adventure or not. All this is part of the ongoing story of a family on the move. I just find it fascinating to think about the diversity of vocation, avocation, conviction and education. Kind of amazing when one thinks about it. And the good news is that, for the most part,we appear to be pretty solid folk making a positive footprint in today’s world. Not all families can claim that I bet.
So the reunion was good for me. It reminded me of my roots and gave me a greater appreciation for my own journey of faith and life. That always has value.
Sometimes when we think of America we get caught up in the big issues of the day and age. And these are things we need to be paying attention to. Sometimes, though, it behooves us all to just stop long enough to see the bigger picture. It’s helpful to remember and to return to those places and people that have meaning. It helps give perspective. And it reminds us that there is an awful lot that’s good and beautiful in this world of ours. And the Murphy family from Hermantown is one of those good and beautiful things.