I was an only child, raised by Finnish immigrants. We lived in rural Maryland on a chicken farm five miles out of town.at the end of dirt road. We had 7,000 chickens, an orchard, a huge vegetable garden, a cow that I milked, a pond, a barn and an outhouse. We had two Chesapeake Bay Retrievers and 18 cats. The nearest neighbor was ½ mile away.
My parents were great people. Most of their friends were farmers also, immigrants from Finland, Sweden and Denmark. They had Saturday night dances and holiday gatherings. Many of them had children my age who became my best friends.
I was always envious of kids who had brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. I longed for the day when I could be part of a big family.
As I got older and went through junior high school and high school, I had friends whose families had been here in America for several, sometimes many, generations. We all had different perspectives and it was fun to learn about their family connections.
I went away to Syracuse University. I met my husband Gene on a blind date my freshman year. He was from New Jersey, a city boy whose view of the world was the parking lot outside the window of his family’s apartment in Bloomfield, NJ.
What entranced me most about him was his family history. The original Bonsteins were two Hessian brothers who immigrated to America during the Revolutionary War. One fought on the side of the British and the other (Gene’s ancestor) fought on the side of the Americans.
Gene had a sister, grandparents and dozens of aunts and uncles and cousins in the Pittsburgh area and elsewhere around the United States. They had regular reunions and holiday gatherings. As I dated him, I met his extended family and was often included in these events.
It was a dream come true for me. They welcomed me and I was so happy to meet them. Gene and I got married the summer after our graduation and we’ve been together ever since. It’s been a blast.
Now we have our own family reunions. I’ll talk about that in our next blog, and give you some advice about how to plan and handle a family reunion. We’ve been doing it for years.