Mother sent this email on Aug. 13, 2000, after a family reunion in Davenport, Iowa.
The Nadolski family reunion was held on the 12th of August, 2000 at Fejervary Park in Davenport, Iowa. The reason that park was chosen is that in the old days we often had family picnics there and when they where alive, Catherine and Frank Nadolski held court, she in her dark flowered dress with a lacy collar and he in his dark pants, white shirt and suspenders. They sat in a prominent position, where they could see everything that was going on.
Grandpa would take his cane and hook a child around the waist, or sometimes the neck, and pull them toward him so that he could ask them questions and, I presume, when you gave the right answer to his question he sometimes gave you a nickel. Of course, a nickel meant much more then than it does now.
You could get an ice cream cone for a nickel or a candy bar. Grandma sat in her place and rarely smiled and didn’t ever have a conversation with me, or any other kid that I saw. Their daughters and their daughter’s families would provide the food and take the opportunity to have a good time together.
The kids all loved it. It was a fine park with swings and slides and Indian Rock to climb on and we had the best time. The food was always the best.
Traditional Polish foods as well as plenty of potato salad, deviled eggs, hot dogs and cakes and pies and my personal favorite, bologna with mustard on white bakery bread. I don’t think any of the families where rich, certainly we weren’t, but the pleasure of the moment and the memories of those simpler times in our lives is priceless beyond all wealth. When ‘family’ was not only a bunch of people with a genetic link, but a group of people with a palpable connection. Not only that, we could see our connection right there in Fej park; she in her long dress and he with his cane. They where and are our connection. The genes that live in all of us and show up in so many faces. The driving force that impacted on the way each of us have lived our lives.
It was with those memories and the warm heart they produced that I attended the first ever family reunion that I know of. I had looked forward to this occasion for the better part of this year and I will tell you that it did not disappoint. God gave us a glorious day. It was an unusual August day for Iowa. Usually it is very hot and humid in Iowa in August, very often with temperature in the 100s and humid as a swamp, but we really lucked out, or maybe it was a little Divine influence with so many Nadolskis up there.
I went to the park early so that I could really spend the whole day there and it was a lovely setting and so peaceful in the morning. Lots of trees around and plenty of room for the kids to run around and still be seen by their parents. I stayed and visited for a while with Marge and Bob and Sue Ellen and her daughters and then I had to run home and get the rest of my stuff and when I came back to the park, the people started to arrive. This was the best part. Seeing the people come. Many familiar faces and some that I had never seen before. There where people there from the families of Aunt Tillie, my mother Mae, Aunt Pauline, Aunt Barbara, Aunt Eleanor, Aunt Johnnie, Uncle Harry, and Aunt Marie.
It was lovely to see all the cousins come. Their families with them. I don’t think I ever saw so many smiling faces. Cousins who lived far apart getting to know each other again. Sisters and brothers talking, head to head about the old times. Cousins who never knew each other finding out that they had a common bond, like my kids talking to one of their cousins whom they had never met who told them ‘I loved Aunt Mae’ and my kids and Katie’s kids finding out that they weren’t the only ones who knew or loved their remarkable grandmother. The laughing about old times and the tears when the memories became so painful. One of the most prevalent common bonds among us was that we had all lost someone who was a Nadolski. Those moments when the memory of those members of our family who have gone forever brought a lump to the throat and took us back to when they where here. Oh how those sisters and Harry would have loved being there. Can’t you just see the wide smiles and joy in their eyes. Shirley said that they where sitting in the rafters of the shelter, looking down and smiling at us and I believe she was right.
I know that like all of you, I would give anything to have 5 more minutes with my mother. I know in my heart I can’t, but it is gatherings like these that help keep her and all of them alive.
Soon there where more people than I could count. 128 signed the book, but I know there where about 200 there. It was just great. Kids running around having a ball. Groups of grownups who just all looked like each other.
People laughing and crying; renewing friendships and just getting to know each other. The universal fun of watching children play; seeing a grandma and grandpa with fear in their eyes looking for a misplaced child; women talking about absent children and grandchildren; husband and wives just smiling with warm eyes at their spouses having such a happy time with their cousins; soon to be Grandma, patting the pregnant belly of a daughter-in-law; hugs and kisses from distant cousins; groups loading up a car and making a potty run; kids trying to toast marshmallows on a fire that wasn’t there; Dad’s watching the kids while Mom got caught up on the gossip; the food line with so much amazing food (one thing for sure, we all know how to cook); kids amazed that they can have as much ice cream as they want; everyone there because on Saturday, August 12, 2000 this was the place they wanted to be.
The most heart rendering moment was when a young man talked to my sister and said that he belong to the family, but he wasn’t sure how. He thought he was a descendant of Aunt Eleanor. That was so sad to me that someone wasn’t sure where they fit in the family and, paradoxically, so joyous because he had sought out his family and found them.
I also want to talk about a generation that is rapidly disappearing. It is my generation. When Uncle Floyd died recently, we lost the last one of that generation. We are now the older generation. We lost so many of our generation in the past few years and we are dwindling down to fewer than I can believe. So I want to talk about those of us who are first cousins who where there. Kenny and Marge who are the last two of Aunt Barbara’s children; LeRoy who is Aunt Johnnie’s son; Midge and Jimmy who are Aunt Eleanor’s children; Jan who is Uncle Harry’s daughter; Shirley and Winifred (Tiny) who are Aunt Pauline’s daughters; Larry who is Aunt Marie’s son; and Catherine and Lorraine who are your Aunt Mae’s daughters. When grandpa died in 1951, he had more than 80 direct descendants, most of whom where first cousins and there just aren’t enough of us left. It is good to know that many of us get together from time to time and we enjoy each other’s company but I sure would like to see more of my extended family. A lot of what keeps us from seeing family is just pure and simple geography. I have stayed in Davenport but it seems as though no one else did. Midge, Jimmy and I are the only ones left in Davenport. Hard to believe.
To those of you who couldn’t be there, we missed you. To those of you who were there, we where delighted to see you. To all of you, always remember that ‘we are family’ and the family is everything.
Lorraine A Deaton