Escaping the Heat, Day 57

September 3, 2022

Reunion One

I try to imagine my father as a young boy, growing up in this beautiful setting.

The previous reunion of the Louis and Emma Pfeiff family in 2003 celebrated the Iowa Century Farm designation, the West Burlington property having been held in the same family for 100 years. At that time, no children of Louis and Emma remained, leaving a few daughters-in-law and grandchildren of varying ages to meet together at this treasured location.

Since that time, many grandchildren of Louis and Emma Katherine have joined them and their immediate offspring in the Great Beyond. All but four of the surviving grandchildren of the Pfarm’s Pfounders* congregated in the barnyard for this reunion on September 3, 2022. It was significant that few members of this generation could recall the hardy German-American couple who planted a family in West Burlington, Iowa, near the Mississippi River. Members of the tribe of Milton, of which I am one, having recovered from the previous evening’s merriment, descended early on Saturday to assist with the set-up of the spacious barn, beautifully prepped by our cousin Martha. Her daughter Molly and husband installed a family tree on one wall. Photo displays of each tribe were presented on tripods nearby. Random collections of snapshots strewn on the white-cloth-covered dining tables elicited questions and fired conversation.

Generations four and five arrived, parking SUVs, pick-ups, and sedans in the well-kept barnyard, a surprising number of young children debarking the vehicles. The day allowed the extended family to find common ground, sensing shared blood. Name tags indicating family lines began conversations. Cousin Lance’s Big Fork sausages and sauces enhanced the lunch catered by the Midwest grocery chain Hy-Vee. The excitement from winning a bottle of Chicago sauce in the raffle may have been out of proportion but allowed people to get acquainted. Relationships were renewed and new connections formed. Cousins who had interacted through their parents now formed adult friendships on their own.

Seeing the children playing freely on the multi-acre lawn bordered by tall corn assured the older generation that the family continued. Photos were taken of the “children in the corn”. Perhaps this was Heaven. LLJ made new friends in her Arizona cousins Helena and Molly. Without Aunt Irma present to discourage them, the children rang the dinner bell freely. Children and adults struggled with and conquered the water pump under the grape arbor, imagining their parents or great-grandparents as children collecting water outside the kitchen door. Two battery-powered miniature farm vehicles and many lawn toys kept the kids busy and provided avenues to interact and become acquainted. Although separated by many miles, a shared sense of family may win out in the future.

Adults enjoyed touring the updated home interior, contrasting its modern simplicity with the familiar décor of the early 1900s, sharing our memories of visits to the farm worked by Uncle John. The tree with the tire swing was gone. There were no rides on the hay wagon, chickens in the yard, or kittens hiding in the barn. The wrap-around porch obliterated by the highway before my time, was family lore, not a memory. Nevertheless, it felt like home, and we were thrilled to share it with our children who missed out on those experiences.

The weather cooperated, offering a taste of the Iowa experience with tolerable heat and mild humidity. As Phil the photographer set up his equipment, clouds shaded the intense sun providing perfect lighting as people collected in front of the white barn. Arizonans cried “rain” when a few sprinkles dropped, but no one else noticed the precipitation. As the clouds darkened the sky, did everyone recall, like me, a memory of cousin Clifford, struck and killed by lightning as a young father, his older son now posed in the back row?

My fears that people would eat and run proved unfounded, families exhibiting a reluctance to leave with long goodbyes several hours later, just in time to avoid the in-coming storm. We had to get back to Moline for Adolphs and Whiteys. And another bar?

*I put a ‘p’ before ‘f’ when referring to the family. Thus we held the reunion at the Pfeiff Pfamily Pfarm. Monthly, my siblings and I zoom for a Pfeiff Pfamily Pforum, and when together, we enjoy Pfeiff Pfamily Pfun. We tried to get Baby Bro to name his daughter Pfi Pfi. They didn't go for it. 

Author: Mary Cornelius

I am an aging woman who writes three blogs.