Monday, August 24, 2009

Baker Family Reunion, Sunday, August 23rd, 2009, By Sue Kinsella

What makes a family reunion? Surely it starts with individual families who love their elders so much that they are willing to drive for hours to bring them together with others they love. So Neil and Pat Maffei drove down to Center Lisle with Aunt Leona. Freddie D. and Linda Emhoff brought Aunt Sylva. Kathy and Gordy Mills, and Annie Taylor and her daughter Jessica brought Uncle Harold. Aunt CB and Uncle Jack met up in Cortland the night before with me and my son, Alex, on our East Coast trip from California.

Family members made sure they got to the reunion despite sore difficulties. Phyllis’s daughter, Dawn, came all the way from Utah with her husband, daughter and more family, despite suffering constant pain from a rare nerve disease. Dorothy Maffei was only three months out from double hip replacement yet drove hours to be there, and Jack Kinsella brought two new knees. David Lochner had just had a problematic vein removed. And Joyce Henderson offered the great gift of hosting the Reunion at the family farm, even though she is on constant oxygen. Clearly, this family wanted to be together.

And, how wonderful it was to see everyone! I hadn’t been to a Baker Family Reunion since I was a teenager and I had been looking forward to this one for months. I had the good fortune to spend three glorious days with Dorothy Maffei earlier in the week at her wonderful house in the Catskills. When we talked about the Reunion, she said more than once, “It doesn’t matter how much we’ve aged or changed. Whenever I see people at the Reunion, I see them as I knew them when we were kids.” How true!

So when I saw Dawn, I was transported back to secret giggles under the covers upstairs in the farmhouse while our mothers, Aunt Gladys and Aunt Lil gossiped late into the night downstairs in the kitchen. When I saw Kathy and Annie, in my mind, we were playing in the life-sized playhouse in their backyard. And, when I saw Linda and Christine Emhoff—well, suddenly we were all wearing gauzy ruffled fancy dresses back on their farm. In fact, we grabbed Kathy Mills and Dorothy Maffei and took a “Today” picture of the Lovely Cousins to compare with our earlier dress-up photos.

All the families were well-represented. The Hendersons had kids and grandkids, and Wendell was with all of us. Joyce had had a quilt made from some of his workshirts so his family could curl up in it on the couch. Later, when many of us went to the Center Lisle Cemetery, we found Wendell’s grave and formed a circle around it to say a prayer together. Phyllis’ daughters Dawn and Annie were there with families. Many Emhoffs and Maffeis were there, as well.

I was there with my son and parents and joined by my brother, Jim, who was on a family genealogy research trip. Annie Taylor was spending her birthday at the Reunion, so we all sang Happy Birthday to her and Aunt CB gave her a gift from the past—the same kind of hand cream that Grandma used to use. The delicious smell brought Grandma Taylor (Aunt Ethel”) back to join us. The Lochners arrived just in time for dinner, including Dave and Chuck from Syracuse and Ted and his family from Massachusetts.

And the Wood families—there were so many Wood cousins to talk to and they all looked just like Gladys! We ate together at picnic tables in the backyard, in the shade of the butternut trees that Grandpa Taylor (“Uncle Lloyd”) planted long ago at the side of the lawn. What luscious foods filled the covered bins by the garage—way too many to try them all, and clearly so many special “tastes of the family”.

We spent the afternoon hugging, talking, eating and taking pictures. Each generation caught up with everyone else and most of us met new cousins we didn’t know we had. Jim Kinsella was the “loudmouth” who called everyone to dinner, but Wendy and Dorothy Maffei gave him a run for his money when we got to organizing family photo shoots. Ronnie Henderson gave a special tractor ride to one of Freddie D’s grandchildren and then got out the big wagon to take everyone on a hayride. Then many of us went down to the cemetery to visit with cousins, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents who have gone before us. They were an important part of the Family Reunion, as well.

All day, the weather had been threatening to rain, but then it would tease us with a little bit of sun before going back to overcast and sprinkles. By late afternoon, the rain let loose but the timing was perfect—cars were already starting to leave the farm and start back down the road that had seen so much Baker, Taylor and Howland history for more than a century. Cousins gathered on the front stone porch as they have done for decades, from the time when the farm belonged to Byron and Kate, to when Adin did the backbreaking work of running it, and on down to Wendell and Joyce and their family. That porch and that house have seen births, marriages, fights, love, death, and the Roll-Down Stocking Club. There is so much “family” there—it was a perfect place for a reunion.

I had so many interesting conversations—what a beautiful collage our family is! I know I’ve forgotten some names and gotten too many mixed up and for that I apologize. But reconnecting with cousins I hadn’t seen for far too long and meeting ones I hadn’t even known made it clear that, for all of you who were at the Reunion, everyone I talked to and everyone I missed, and all of you who didn’t get to come to this Reunion, whether we see each other all the time or not for 40 years—the beauty of Family is that we may not always know each other by name, but we all know each other by heart. Thank you, Joyce Henderson and family, for such a precious Reunion.

Pat Kinsella Herdeg here--I am taking a stab at these names, so help!! Let me know—by comment or email, and I will fix as I get the correct names—Apologies, and thanks, in advance.

Picture One: Family Henderson--Front: Uncle Harold, Sylva, CB, Leona;
Back: Kathleen (or Katie according to my sister Sue), David, Joyce, Little Lawson, Justin, Ron

Picture Two: Family Wood—Front row of kids: Madison, Lena, Nick;
Second Row: Uncle Harold, Sylva, CB, Leona,
Third Row: Gail, Wendy, Sara, Audry,Kathryn, Alicia, Beth, Laurie
Fourth Row: James, Dan, Anthony, Andy

Picture Three: Family Maffei—Leona and Dorothy,
Back: Pat and Neil

Picture Four: Family Emhoff—Front: Harold, Sylva, CB, Leona
Back: Linda, Freddie D., Jeff, Linda, Christine

Picture Five:Family Phyllis—Harold, Sylva, CB, Leona, Dawn
Back: Annie, Ed, Kelly, ?, Bernie

MORE PICTURES to COME!! Email me if you have some you want to see up here!


Pat said...


Thank you for such a wonderful job with this write up of the reunion. I feel like I was ALMOST there--wish I could have been there for the hayride, the trip to the cemetery to visit with all the folks there, living and otherwise, the food, to see Wendell and Joyce's quilt, to jump into hay again, and most of all, as you said, to reunite, and meet, with FAMILY again.

And, terrific pictures!!

Great job!!

Kathryn said...

I cannot tell you how glad I am for this write up! And the pictures!!
I could not get there for lack of money. Nasty stuff. I have a Bipolar husband, and a few years he went heavily manic. We will be paying things off for a while. We do not have a big income and money is tight. I did not have the gas money. Desire to go was
there, finances were not.
My daughter, Beth went, straight from camping over the weekend with her husband's family. I will see her pictures tomorrow.
The ? in the Henderson picture is Justin, Ron's son.
The fourth row of the Wood family picture are, James, Dan, Anthony, and Andy.
Hope that helps.
Love you all,
and Pat and Sue- YOU ARE FANTASTIC!!!


Well I just finished reading this and I have tears of joy and I smiled all thru. I just want to say that you both have done a wonderful job. If I hadn't of been there you sure felt like it when you read your story. LOVED SEEING YOU SUE. You have a wonderful young man for a son also!!!!

Diana said...

Wonderful to see everyone - the last time I was at one was the second to the last time I brought the folks out east - I didn't even realize it was reunion time until we got out there and double checked with CB and Doris - so was glad to have the chance to be there.

Wish I could have joined you all this year.

Cousin Judy said...

Wow, I agree with Annie...I had to get a kleenex to blow my nose! It was wonderful, Sue. Thanks for sharing and lots of memories come back to you while reading it!
Love to you all

CB said...

Finally I get to write! [ new computor!!!] yes, it was a wonderful reunion. Joyce and Wendell raised a trio of grand kids who helped make it possible!
As we sat in the shade of Daddy's trees [ which I first remember as tiny switches] I could not help but think of Gladys and Wendell, the two I missed the most! They would have loved it and Wendell would have been bustling around, [ he built the wooden racks that the food is kept in to protect it from flies! } Gladys would have made stuffed eggs, hers were so good! The farm means many things to each of us, but when life is hectic and I need peace, This is where I transport myself to obtain it.
Thank You, Joyce , Ronnie, Katie, and David. Aunt CB