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Family Time

The last Saturday in June always brings an event I rather look forward to each year. That would be the Alderson Family Reunion. This year was no different.

The annual gathering of the descendants of Richard Cephus and Sallie Adams Alderson was held last Saturday. Although both had checked out by the time I made my debut, they were my paternal grandparents. Sallie was the daughter of James M. Adams, my great-grandfather, whose given names eventually worked their way down to me. It is not known how he might have felt about it.

Holding the reunion in late June means, among other things, that I always attend. This is unlike the other side of my family, where they always seem to be scheduled during football season, meaning I do not. It is, after all, a question of priorities. I have occasionally suspected that the reason October always seems to be chosen for Moorefield reunions is the certain knowledge that I will not attend. The Alderson’s don’t seem to mind, or at least the strong desire among the rest of them not to conflict with Tech football means they are willing to bite the bullet and tolerate my company. Actually, I seriously doubt whether I will attend or not plays no role in calendar decisions, but it did seem an amusing thing to write.

The family originally hails from Keeling, Virginia, a small, rural community about 15 miles from Danville, accessible by a two-lane road that winds through some beautiful countryside. Some of the clan still resides there. The house where Cephus and Sallie set up housekeeping in October of 1891 has been lived in by their descendents ever since. Currently it is home to some of their great and great great grandchildren.

Like most families in this age of mobility and migration to population centers, however, the clan scattered out, quite a few to nearby Danville, others to Roanoke, Richmond, DC and the Triangle area of North Carolina, others even further a field. As near as I can tell, none are currently engaged in the tobacco farming that sustained the family for generations. The movement away from the tobacco fields began with my own father, who was not long into adulthood before he decided he wanted no part of farming, a career choice that has left me eternally grateful.

The reunions are always held at the Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, located a mile or so from the original homestead. Mt. Tabor looks very much as it did when it was founded in the 1920s and remains one of the more picturesque rural churches that dot the Pittsylvania County countryside. There were Alderson’s in attendance when the church opened its doors and still are.

Like the gatherings of every other family I have been a part or know of, this one had the mass consumption of foodstuffs as its high point. It rivals tailgates as a showcase for my ability to stuff myself with really good food secure in the knowledge I have contributed nothing to its preparation. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Alderson women are renowned far and wide for their culinary abilities.

Conversations tend to revolve around family members both present and departed and something else. On both sides of my family, Virginia Tech has generally been the family school. There is the occasional alumnus of somewhere else [AKA Where the Girls Went to School, although on my mother’s side the girls often go to Tech, too], but there are a lot of Tech alumni always around.

Get two Hokies together and the odds are 100% that the subject of Tech football will come up. Get 6-8 in close proximity and it will come up a lot. Interestingly enough, the talk was of a much different nature than the usual message board fare of griping that the Offensive Coordinator has not been fired or that the steady diet of bowl games, national rankings, ten-win seasons and conference championships are not enough. Imagine that.

That there are so many Hokies running around in one place points to the tendency of Alderson parents to spawn males. My habit of referring to my brother and I as the ‘Alderson boys’ doesn’t narrow it down much here. There were several sets of Alderson boys in attendance, spanning generations. While lots of male offspring are no longer valued as labor for the tobacco fields, we have contributed mightily to the swelling of Tech enrollment numbers over the years.

I always enjoy these reunions and the 2008 one was no exception. I have been very fortunate in the relatives I was awarded on both sides of my family. I look forward to next year’s Alderson Family Reunion and am very proud to call them my relatives.

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