Every year around the last week of July my father’s family all meets for a two day reunion in the small town of Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Hollifield’s have resided in the area for over 100 years! There are many streets named after us and if you’re walking around town some people even notice you’re a Hollifield just by looking at you. Although it is only two days long, the reunion is something I cherish deep in my heart, for it’s the only time I get to see my father’s family.
One night in 1974, my grandpa and a few other family members were sitting around reminiscing about their childhood. They were laughing at all the memories and good times they’ve had and all the trouble they got into. My grandpa was telling everyone he had been thinking of a way that everyone could make some time to all come together for a couple days once every year. His uncle told him that they should start a family reunion. So starting in July of 1974 the annual Hollifield reunion began. Everyone gets to the hotel Friday night and gets settled in and reacquainted a lot of hugging, kissing, laughing, and eating. My sister and I get our own hotel room so most of our cousins bring sleeping bags and stay both nights in our room. We talk about what we’ve all done that year, who’s dating who, what kind of cars we’ve bought; we pretty much talk each other’s ears off. The next morning we all get up and find somewhere to eat and walk around town.
Downtown Spruce Pine is absolutely beautiful. There are flowers and pine trees growing everywhere, and you can smell all the bakeries and barbeque pits. There are little stores with antiques and instruments, florists, wedding dress shops, and candy stores. It could go from 90 degrees with the sun shining to a humid rain in a matter of minutes. When it rains you can smell it a hundred times better than in California. After we walk through town we get to a huge, long wooden bridge. It’s been there for years and underneath it flows a beautiful creek and a park filled with laughing children frolicking in the sunlight. We normally go to the park and mess around on everything then make our way to the creek. You have to go down a steep hill made of dirt and freckled with little patches of bright green grass. The boys catch crawdads and crayfish while us girls dip our feet in the clear chilly water and wait for the train to pass.
The train is large and used to transport coal and freight. Personally, the train is one of my favorite parts of Spruce Pine. It’s loud yet still soothing and controlled. After a few hours the rest of the family begins to show up at the park with fresh, good old-fashioned southern food. They unload the cars of barbeque, slaw, potatoes, mac and cheese, collard greens, green beans, pasta salads, and more desert than any amount of people should ever consume. Following our meal is the baseball game. The whole family plays and we get chosen randomly for two teams. In the end my grandpa tells us that everyone won and an MVP is chosen from each team who receives a golden trophy of a boy or girl with a tiny body and huge head, holding a baseball bat. We all clean up then head back to the hotel to get swimsuits and drive over to the pool. A few hours into swimming we decide to go to the hotel and shower then all the kids find a place to eat supper.
Upon leaving the restaurant someone informs us that the annual hide-n-seek game has begun. We take off running towards the hotel to find a hiding place while the person chosen as “it” stays and counts for 5 minutes. The game involves a lot of pushing, shoving, screaming, laughing, and those little chills you get when you’ve found a place and you know that any second you could be found. After the game we all head back to my sister and I’s room and hang out. We stay up all night talking about everything that happened, who did the most embarrassing thing, which was the funniest, and other things we had encountered that day. As the night goes by we start to notice our time is almost up. Most of my cousins live in NC so they see each other all the time, but as the hours pass my sister and I notice that our time in NC is almost over; that we’ll have to wait yet another slow, California year before we get back to the peaceful happiness of NC. Around 9 in the morning our cousin’s head back to their rooms to get ready for our last meal together.
For breakfast Sunday morning the whole family fills the back room of The Western Sizzler. Western Sizzler may be the best place to get breakfast ever. It’s is 3 large buffet tables covered in bacon, sausage, ham, eggs, fruit, veggies, pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy, yogurt, granola, hash browns, country potatoes, varieties of juices, milks, sodas. And at the end there is a huge dessert bar. We eat and talk and talk and eat. And eat some more… and then a little bit more. We catch up with some of the older members of the family and tell them what we did all weekend. My aunt Vicki walks around and takes millions of pictures with her big nice camera that has a flash that could blind the whole family at the same time. When everyone has finished my grandpa stands up and talks about all the great things that have gone on during the weekend, all the graduates and birthdays, all the births and deaths. We end the reunion by hugging and some crying (I won’t lie; I’m one of the criers).
If my family had never got the idea to have a reunion, I don’t know when I would ever see them. The reunion brings us together in a quick two day span filled with great food, laughter, and all around happiness. It seems like when we’re all together nothing can go wrong. My cousins and I have vowed that when our time comes, we will carry on the tradition of the Hollifield Family Reunion until the day we die.