I come from a big family. My dad, Park, was 1 of 17 children and my mom, Leola, was 1 of 8 children. As best as I can recall, I have 38 first cousins and an even larger number of first cousins, once removed, second cousins, and more. My dad was the proverbial middle child; he was number 10 in birth order among his siblings. My mom, on the other hand, was the youngest child, with some of her siblings old enough to have been her parent. The Pigott side of my family used to host a lot of family reunions, both in Fort Myers, where my paternal grandmother moved in the 1920s, and in Wakulla County, where numerous Pigotts and their “kin folks” have resided since the 1800s. I can’t begin to count the number of fish fry dinners; foot washing services at the Primitive Baptist Church in Medart, Florida; and birthday parties honoring Grandmother Pigott I have attended! Grandmother’s birthday parties were so well attended that they were held at the fairground! One of the primary benefits of attending graduate school at FSU was living on my cousins’ property in Ivan, Florida, in close proximity to several common locations for family reunions. One of my cousins was waiting for me to register for classes so that she could be sure I would attend a reunion that was being held the following weekend. Lucky me! I always loved attending family reunions, not only to see my relatives, but to eat the delicious food that was a large part of our get togethers. Mom’s family didn’t have reunions, however, when we visited her family in South Carolina, there were always lunches and dinners held in her honor that included as many relatives as possible. I enjoyed the delicious food at these events too! Although many years have passed since the older generation planned and hosted family reunions, I will always have fond memories of the time my family spent together. I have recently reconnected with my cousin, Jody, on my mom’s side of the family, and we are having a great time catching up where we left off as children. With many families experiencing discord and disharmony, I am glad to have many fun times with my big family.
In contrast to Melissa, my family was about average. Dad was an only child, Mom had 2 siblings. There are some cousins, aunts, uncles, great aunts, etc., but when I learned about her parents’ families, I was blown away. I mean 17 children!!! From what I know, her grandmother was a tough woman who, in addition to raising that brood, ran a boarding house, raised chickens, fished, and dipped snuff at a time in Florida way before air conditioning. It was old Florida, like one might read about in a Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings book. I did have the opportunity to meet parts of Melissa’s family, from both sides, over the years. And, importantly, I got to attend 1 or 2 reunions. These reunions included covered dish feasts. That was an amazing thing to experience, so many people and so much food! It was hard to comprehend. Keeping up on who’s who was impossible. As the generations changed, the traditions have as well. I don’t know if any of Melissa’s family members have kept up the reunion, feast, tradition. But, with family trees like those, some branches probably carry on.