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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July

One has been to most of the Massey
4th of July's- other should have been.
Growing up in the 1950's & 1960's, the 4th of July meant one thing- the Massey's getting together. Today it is the "Massey Reunion", back then it was just the Massey brother's getting together.

My grandfather (Cornelius) and my grandmother (Roberta) had five sons. The sons in order of birth were Glenn, Wendell, Wright, Oswald, and Dwayne. Two times a year, the brothers always got together- the Fourth of July and Christmas Eve. As long as they were alive, I don't remember any of them ever missing. It did not matter if the Fourth was on the middle of the week or a weekend, at noon the Massey brothers & families got together.

I am sure the brothers wanted to see each other, but I think a lot of the "family discipline" came from my grandmother. My grandfather died at a young age, so I am guessing you needed a certain "toughness" to handle five boys & young men. Grandma was always nice to me but she was never the warm and cuddly Grandma. I don't ever remember getting a hug from her, and today there are few hugs when the Massey's get together. I am sure she expressed interest in my life as a young boy and I felt loved, but the relationship was pretty business like. When we went to Wisconsin for the summer, on one of the first visits you could be assured she would relate a couple stories from the Madison paper involving drownings. That was Grandma Massey's "water safety" talk.

My point is whether the Massey brothers wanted to get together or not, I don't think there was really an option. The get together rotated between different peoples farms. As I remember, the most common locations were Neal's, Uncle Wendell's, and Uncle Dwayne's.

It was a potluck lunch, served at noon. There were no buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken brought- all things made from the kitchen. The prize item was my Aunt Gennieve's homemade pasti. Pasti is a meat and potato pie which was made in England by our ancestors. At the time I ate it, I just knew it was good. There was always plenty to eat.

We never played cards and there was never any alcohol served. After Grandma's death cards became ok, but there has never been any alcohol served. These bans had origins not only in family religion but family history. Today people would refer to Grandma Massey's beliefs as "Primitive Methodist." It was a very strict religion. In addition, it is believed my great grandfather came to America to help him get away from alcohol.

The Fourth was generally segregated by gender. The women usually stayed inside and the men sat outside in the shade. There was no air conditioning, and I don't ever remember a TV being turned on. When it came to eat, being a polite group- the Massey men were served first. I don't know, maybe it was a habit of feeding the men first so they could get back to the field.

Usually you just played, but sometimes you would sit and listen to the Uncles talking. Their conversations usually centered around their past. And usually their conversation resulted in mild disagreements about the past. As we know, short term memory loss and selective memory seems to occur sometime after 30.

A real highlight was when Uncle Oswald worked for John Deere. He would bring us boys some of the John Deere toy tractors or implements. We loved that. There was nothing better than to take them home and go out and the yard to pretend farm-- a rural Wisconsin thing I guess.

As a boy, as soon as you found out where the Fourth was going to be, you analyzed how it was going to be set up for a baseball game. All the kids would play and some of the adult males would play. It was great, we had enough players to field positions so you had no weird rules like hitting to right field was an out.

When I was young, Uncle Wendell was the one brother who would come out to help organize the game, but also would sometimes step in to bat. Uncle Wendell was a good player but had to stop playing organized baseball when games were played on Sundays (Grandma Massey).

In the mid-60's my mother took over hosting the Fourth of July. By the time she began to host, Grandma Massey was dead, and the only two brothers left were Uncle Wendell and Uncle Oswald. For my mother hosting the Fourth was very important. She grew up an only child, and married into four brothers. Marj recognized what being a Massey meant to my father, and I think she hosted the Fourth because she personally did not ever want to lose that connection, and she wanted Mark and I to keep the connection.

Sunday, July 8th will be the next Massey get together. Now there are no brothers left and none of their wives left to go. So it is no longer the brothers "getting together." So at this point it does become more a "reunion"- descendents of Glenn, Wendell, Wright, Oswald, and Dwayne.

It is great to have such wonderful family memories. But as you get older, you don't miss your uncles or parents any less.

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