Entertaining familyTOWNER, N.D. — They say you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family. That may be the case but I sure feel like I had pretty good luck of the draw in being dealt the family I got.
By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek
TOWNER, N.D. — They say you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family. That may be the case but I sure feel like I had pretty good luck of the draw in being dealt the family I got.
We’re all a little different in our family despite our common genes. And that’s good, because everyone has something different to offer the mix. Kind of like an orchestra coming together. The music’s not quite as good if every last living one of us is all playing a clarinet. Homogenization might be a good thing for milk, but it’s not nearly so good for groups of people.
My relatives have lots of different careers, likes and dislikes, variations of politics, places we call home and spouses and children that help mix things up a little. What I always liked most about the extended family I grew up in is how we’d entertain each other when we came together.
Close knit connections
Because of size and proximity, most of my family memories were made with my mother’s side of the family. Dad’s side of the family was a good and interesting bunch, too, but it was a small group and fairly far flung. Mom, however, came from a family of seven children, and most settled relatively near the home where they grew up along the Mouse River in North Dakota’s McHenry County.
Her father emigrated from Hallingdal, Norway, some 22 years before she was born, and taught her to speak Norwegian before she learned English. Her mother was born in America, but was the daughter of Gudbrandsdalen Norwegians who came to North Dakota just before statehood.
Those seven children, raised through the Great Depression with little or nothing but love and each other, were pretty close knit. Two of the boys went off to World War II, one died much too young in a car accident after the war. The six remaining all married and raised families, one in Alaska, the other five in north central North Dakota.
When we had family “get togethers” on holidays or for no particular reason at all, these were the aunts and uncles and cousins and cousin’s kids getting together in our family. There wasn’t much for awkward pauses in the conversation.
We had ranchers, farmers, a commercial fisherman, heavy equipment and construction workers, trappers, hunters, caregivers, a dentist, artists, musicians and more represented around the table to share stories and tales and jokes. As kids, we’d sit right at the table and listen. No hiding in another room to text with our friends.
Along with the stories, I most remember the music.
At some point of the family’s afternoon or evening visit, the musical instruments would start coming out. Mom was the family fiddler, but she could chord on the piano or pick up most any stringed instrument. My aunt played the accordion, cousins could play the guitar, my uncle always had his harmonica. Most everyone knew the words to the songs they’d play and we weren’t ashamed to join in on the chorus.
We didn’t have ipods or digital downloads, but we had good music. We didn’t spend the money to see many movies in town, but we heard lots of good stories around the table that could have been the subject of a movie.
No, I didn’t get to pick my relatives, but I doubt I could have picked better.
Editor’s Note: Ryan Taylor welcomes comments about his column. He can be reached at 1363 54th St. N.E., Towner, N.D. 58788; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Taylor, who ranches near Towner, is a columnist for Agweek.