Going Back to My Roots

Last Sunday, in a nondescript building with a Dunaway Reunion Coca-Cola sign draped across the front, just yards from Murder Creek bridge, in the small dying Alabama town of my birth, I returned to my Dunaway-family roots. 

And, I am especially glad that Sandy and I made the ten-hour trip from North Carolina. It has been several years since we last made the trip, but as I stepped across the threshold, the years of my absences faded away. 

Remember when you missed Sunday School and church one week, and that stretched into two and then to four and five? Was it because you dreaded being fawned over by the welcoming committee?

Or, was it feeling compelled to explain your absence to the preacher as you shook his hand on your way out?

That was the feeling I had felt in years past about going back to the reunion. It was, of course, nonsense, but it was enough for me to create flimsy excuses for staying in Carolina.

As I eased through side the door to the East Brewton Community Center, on this lovely Alabama fall day, a tray of food in hand, all of that silliness just faded away. 

I think there were more names I did not know than those I could recall. Still, it was so enjoyable to sit with my cousin Liz, and as we ate Southern food too good for restaurants, to ask, “Now, Liz, who does that new baby belong to?” And having “inconspicuously” nodded toward the baby, we would spend a few minutes exploring the familial relationship that tied that infant to us.

After all the eating had ended, we mingled so our food would settle a bit.  Someone managed to get all the direct descendants of the children of Granddaddy and Granny Dunaway (William H. Dunaway [1892-1970] and Bessie Lee York [1891-1957]) to sit on the front of the stage in descending order from oldest to youngest. None of our parents were still living, and one of our numbers passed away since the last reunion, but seven of us sat together for a few minutes for pictures. I was shaken a bit to discover that I was the fourth oldest! The direct decedents of the children of William and Bessie Dunaway are dwindling rapidly. Even so, our crowd on this day numbered somewhere near 70.

Art Lucky was the pastor of a small Methodist church we attended many years ago in Mobile.  Each time Art baptized a new infant into our midst, he reminded us of a profound truth – that the Almighty ordained the family so that we could understand how we are loved from above. 

But Art didn’t stop there. He implored us are to return that love upwards toward the heavens, but just as importantly toward our fellowmen. That is maybe the most practical theological concept I have ever heard.  

I recalled Brother Art’s metaphor on Sunday last, and I am resolved not to miss another reunion if I am physically able to attend. It is just too vital as I grow older to remember from whence I came. We Dunaways are a diverse Alabama family. Southern in all things. We are kind and gentle, loving and gracious, thankful, and generous. We are also exceptional cooks!

We were teachers and preachers and pharmacists and physicians. Nurses and caretakers.  Writers and woodcarvers. Woodsmen and fishermen (and fisherwomen!). Mostly we were mothers and fathers. Sons and daughters.  Children and grandchildren. Husbands and wives. All proud to be members of the Dunaway clan who gathered in East Brewton, Alabama, on the third Sunday in October.

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