Sunday, July 12, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #219 Alone . . . in a Large Group, Barton, Maryland, July 2015

How many times have you found yourself in some kind of large group and yet, felt completely alone? I imagine just about everyone has been in this uncomfortable situation at least once and probably more than once. I usually don't post a Photo-of-the-Week the same day I took the photo, but this just seemed like a good theme. This is the situation I found myself in today.

I don't know if I can make the broad generalization that most families have regular (or semi-regular) family reunion (often picnic) gatherings. I'm sure I'm safe to say many families do this. When I was growing up, my own nuclear family had occasional gatherings of, primarily, family members, though they weren't actually organized and structured events. Perhaps, like many families, birthdays, anniversaries and specific holidays were the typical motivators for such gatherings. There are no more family gatherings (or informal reunions) in my family. There are too few of us left, we're scattered around the U.S., I don't know where most of them are and no one has kept in contact, to my knowledge, for more than 30 or 40 years.

My "outlaws" (formally my in-laws when I was married into the family) do have semi-regular family reunions and they are normally focused around the matriarch's birthday (the only surviving parent/grandparent/great grandparent). Even though the family (6 brothers and 2 sisters and a plethora of spouses, grandchildren and great grandchildren) is spread out over at least five states that I know of, they travel to some pre-determined location for these reunions. Of course, there are a few people who, like me, remain part of the clan even though I'm no longer married into it. Plus, there are the "strays," who have been adopted into the family, who also attend. I'm entirely at home in this large group gathering.

Today, I attended a family reunion where I literally felt all alone with people all around me. The group probably numbered about a hundred, though I didn't even attempt a head count. My friend's mother likes to attend because she is distantly related to this family and one or a couple people usually show up for her to visit with. Other than that, my friend and her adult son (who also attended), knew almost no one there.

My description of this event and my time attending has nothing to do with the people who organized it or attended. I don't judge people. I observed a group of regular Americans having a great time. I'm sure they are all nice people. The folks were all having a wonderful family time visiting and their conversations were lively. I just wasn't one of them. I was an intruder. So, here I was, a normally friendly, gregarious, outgoing, participating individual feeling like a wallflower, or maybe more accurately, feeling invisible.

There was, of course, a great feed (and somewhat organized feeding frenzy). I sat on the sidelines and waited out the lines until everyone else had filled their plates to overflowing. Frankly, I did my waiting in chow lines when I was in the Air Force and prefer not to stand in a line, as an invisible entity, awaiting my turn to fill my plate to overflowing. It's been my experience over a lifetime of attending such events to know there was going to be ample food remaining after the foraging hordes worked their way down the "potluck" tables. I was right.

So, this is the scene in the photo. It was at a park with a reasonably sized shelter in Barton, Maryland, a small, old, rural town in the western panhandle of the state. It was somewhat overcast as attested to by the photo. Fortunately, the humidity was at a reasonable percentage and the temperature at mid-afternoon was in a comfortable mid 80's range. The food was good, ample and fattening. Total time involved in the entire affair was about four hours. It certainly wasn't torture, but ultimately, at my age, four hours is four hours. I hope to avoid any similar events in the future.   


  1. This experience dramatizes the value of cultivating sensitivity to those you are with and invitations you receive. Do you add to one another's lives or is it just passing the time?

    It has become difficult to subject myself to that which has little value. I avoid doing so. Foresight can be developed that enables you to know when you should join or excuse yourself.

    1. Absolutely, Richard. It goes back to how much value we place on time. Time is the very essence of our life. In my value system it's a priceless commodity parallel to life itself.