“A typical family reunion will assemble grandparents, great-grandparents and up for a meal, some recreation and discussion.” – From Wikipedia

I have a love/hate relationship with reunions.

As a child, it seemed whole summers were spent with people I barely knew, making friends with kids I likely would not see again (a year later, you were new people, anyway), waiting, waiting, waiting for adults to have enough conversation to be able to drive home from that day’s park or pavilion. The new, dress Keds were out.

We had reunions with Funks, Hopkins, Sands, Sweetings, and I don’t know who else.

My favorite part was storytelling. I heard about my grandparents dating, driving too fast through the town of Greenwich (OH) to beat the train after a basketball game where my grandpa likely drank hooch. Even the story about him losing his teeth to candy, because permissive aunts allowed him to indulge following his mother’s death held me captive.

I don’t particularly like recalling the measuring up of cousins. We had sporty cousins, cousins whose father was serving in the military. A group of girl cousins always seemed to know the latest trends and even had better housekeeping skills – once, they told me I didn’t know how to sweep with a broom correctly. And then, there was me. As a little girl, outgoing and energetic with a fair amount of spunk. As a teenager, awkward, tall, and slightly heavy, held down by embarrassment.

Once, when I was about twelve, I lived in Cleveland and went to a Polish family reunion with my girlfriend’s family, the Tomaskos. I was enchanted! They had amazing food, loud loud loud conversations, and I won a cheap cameo set by winning a game. They took my picture while some old man kissed my cheek.

This year, our Sweeting reunion is at my brother’s, because my mom has dementia and we’re “making hay while the sun shines.” We’re expecting 50-60 people from all points, as far as Arizona and California. Who knows when we’ll get together again?

That old trepidation starts to creep in. At the last one, we were broke, my husband was in school and I was working like a dog at a job I knew was in jeopardy. I didn’t want to talk about our situation, so I played with kids all day.

This year, I’m using food as a shield. Is this where all great recipes originate? I’m taking watermelon, Texas sheet cake, chocolate chip cookies, bean salad…and maybe Caramel Bananas. Here’s my family’s version of rich, chocolate sin in a jelly roll pan:


2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
2 eggs
1/2 c. sour cream
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
Mix ingredients and set aside.

Bring to a boil:
2 cups (4 sticks) margarine (not butter)
4 T. cocoa
1 c. water
Add hot ingredients to flour/sugar mixture. Pour into greased jelly roll pan (shallow, large sheet pan). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

1/2 c. (1 stick) margarine
1/4 c. cocoa
1/3 c. buttermilk
Bring to a boil. Add:
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. coconut
1 T. vanilla

Suitable for use as shield or to eat. You decide.

Texas Sheet Cake 007