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Roots and shoots, branches and buds: One family’s story

Although this hasn’t been a great summer for outdoor events, the Seavey clan of Cape Porpoise, Maine, sure did manage to come through with a winner of a family reunion. More than 100 people showed up and the townsfolk are probably still talking about it. This year’s planning committee pulled out all the stops because they were commemorating the 100th wedding anniversary of Edna Benson and George Seavey who started this whole thing. Let’s face it – if those two hadn’t gotten married and produced a batch of children, there would be no Seavey reunions and you wouldn’t be reading this.

First, you need to know something about the Seaveys — these people take the word “family” very seriously. Whether a baby is born, a wedding is in the offing, a young one is graduating from school, or someone just needs a little cheering up, they are there for each other. This is a family who, no matter where life has taken them, has never forgotten where they came from or the basic values of a down-Maine heritage.

I’ve been invited to these affairs over the years because my friend Janet Crandall is a Seavey. She has always been a favorite aunt in the family, but this year she took on a brand new title — matriarch — because she is the lone survivor of George and Edna’s seven children. There was much jesting about her new title and the added respect we now have to pay her, but she also had to take on more responsibilities as far as this reunion was concerned.

Her first task was to lead a history-filled tour through the neighborhood of the old homestead — the house George built for his young bride back in 1913. She told of the devastating 1947 forest fire which ravaged so much of southern Maine. All the nearby homes around the Seavey homestead were burned to the ground, but miraculously, it survived.

Later Janet led a tour through the old house itself, and while in the kitchen she spoke of bygone things like ice boxes, set tubs, and bottles of milk with cream on the top. Of course she had to do some translating for the younger generation in the crowd because in their homes they call these things refrigerators and washing machines — and the 2 percent milk they buy comes in cartons.

In late afternoon, after the traditional churning of their homemade ice cream, the festivities moved up the road to the local Legion Hall for a sumptuous supper. Then came a perfect example of the importance the Seaveys place on lineage. All eyes turned to the stage where on the back wall, and as wide as the stage itself, was a rendering of the Seavey family tree — beginning of course with George and Edna. While the rest of us looked on, one branch of the family at a time was called up on the stage where each person selected their own name from a basket and affixed it to their corresponding square on the diagram. This was no high-tech exercise. Instead, it was a hands-on project showing exactly how each person fit into the scheme of this special family. Even for me, a non-family member, this was a very emotional part of the day.

But the Seaveys weren’t finished yet. The next morning they were to conduct the 8:30 a.m. service down at the local Methodist Church. I worried that after such a full reunion day, many of the Seaveys might have already headed for home or would still be in bed, but I should have known better.

When the church doors opened that morning, it was quite a sight to see all those Seaveys streaming in. They filled every pew on the side of the church where George and Edna used to sit and some on the other side too. The choir, its director, and the piano accompanist were all Seaveys. Then to round out the scenario, the Seaveys in the pews sang their hearts out at hymn-singing time. It was quite a sight to see and hear.

The preacher was Janet Seavey Crandall, who stressed the value of family and heritage. Like a seamstress, she somehow gathered the colors and fabrics of 50 years, and sewed them into one beautiful quilt of family memories. It was amazing.

When the reunion ended, each branch of the family headed home with a unique ninety-page book containing photos and statistics of all the Seavey descendants . From George and Edna Seavey down to little six-week old Donovan Riley Gross, they are all there. The book’s title is Roots, Shoots, Branches, Twigs and Buds. What better name could sum up the story of such a family tree? Somewhere, George and Edna must be smiling.

Joann Snow Duncanson, a former Peterborough resident now living in Greenland, is the author of “Who Gets the Yellow Bananas?,” co-author of “Breakfast in the Bathtub” and author of her latest book, “Eight Crayons - Poems and Stories by an Almost Sane Woman.” Reach her at www.jsnowduncanson. com or email ourbooks@ worldpath.net.

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