Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

by Patricia Yarberry Allen

It is assumed across the South that only women take care of the hearth, make the house a home, and provide a nest for far-flung family to return to as reunion season begins in early summer.

When I was growing up, Sunday reunions were crowded with Oscar and Ora Mae’s 11 children and their families. My maternal grandparents loved having their family home every week, and every week women managed this close-knit family gathering.

Women set the tables, made the seating plans, prepared their special dishes as if they were competing in a Golden Globes cook-off, and then enjoyed the gossip and closeness that is only found in large and loving families.

The many cousins went swimming after lunch, played hopscotch and tag and took long walks up the steep hills that surrounded Grandpa Arnold’s farm. They’d settle down when the music started — bluegrass and depression-era country, performed by my mother’s brothers and their friends on banjos and violins.

That was 45 years ago. My grandparents are gone. Only seven of my mother’s siblings are alive, ranging in age from 75 to 97. Until this year, no one had assumed responsibility for creating memories for the next generation.

My three brothers were closest to Uncle Robert’s five boys. Our farms were only separated by a large stream and the imagination it took in all kinds of weather to reach the other side. These eight boys grew up together and remain close, even though several are scattered across the country now.

My youngest brother, George, and his best mate from Uncle Robert’s family, Billy, decided to resurrect the reunion this year. They began last weekend with the first of many to come. But my, my, my — how things have changed.

George spent six months rebuilding an old barn on a large lake property owned by my three brothers. He had a plan. He wanted extended time for family to reconnect in a joyful way –“not just getting together for another funeral,” he said to me.

He found three country bands to play for six hours. He built the bandstand and covered it with parachute silk to provide protection from the Kentucky summer sun.

He and the cousins planned the menu and did the cooking — a marvelous crab boil, outside, propane-fueled and enough for 70 people.

George set up tables under the trees, covered them with old-fashioned oil-cloth tablecloths and gave us this wonderful gift: a gift of food, music and memories.

My mother was the only one of her generation there. Uncle Robert and his wife are no longer living. Mama is 88 and quite the girl. Undeterred by valve replacement, pacemaker and stroke, she could not wait to be the first to dance.

So, in the waning afternoon light on the banks of Barron Lake in Kentucky, everyone watched as mother danced, first with George, then with Stan and Dale. My wonderful brothers who have learned how to be real men. Who know how to cook and how to dance.

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  • Edna Yarberry October 3, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    Dear Pat:
    Man-Made Memories brought back things that happened long ago that touched me deeply. I will email you again soon, love mother. I am trying out my new computer.