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Family Ties

The Alderson family held its annual reunion this past Saturday. While that is not all that unusual, as they are held around this time every year, the venue and methods of celebration were.

I have been attending these events for quite a while. As time passes, I notice that I am edging slowly but surely into that category of family village elder. That was brought into vivid relief at this one, held only a few weeks after many of the same people had gathered for the funeral of a family member I choose to remember as the terrific woman she was for virtually my entire life rather than the increasingly-difficult circumstances in which she found herself in her later years.  While the family continues to act as they always do, laughing and joking through another day of reminiscing and good fellowship, there are quite a few familiar faces who have gone missing from the family tribe. The spirit may still be willing, but the flesh is slowly growing cantankerous.

This year’s reunion coincided with the 50th birthday of my cousin Ralph Alderson. His bride Pam had opted to move the event from its traditional mooring of Mt. Tabor church in Keeling, VA, to the farm she and Ralph purchased just over the line in adjoining Halifax County as a weekend getaway and eventual retirement destination. It was felt that the consumption of mass quantities of beer, wine and brown liquor and the band  that was deemed necessary for a proper celebration of Ralph’s advancing years was better suited for a remote farm rather than the church’s social hall.

Ralph, AKA the Smart One, is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and former Naval aviator. I have great respect for those who accomplish what I long ago determined I could not, which would include graduation from both a service academy and flight school. Ralph managed both.

While any Alderson gathering is noted for the large numbers of Hokies in attendance, a crowd that included Ralph’s father, both brothers and at least two cousins, Ralph developed a number of close friendships during his plebe year at Navy that survive to this day. They had elected to become Aldersons for a day and help Ralph celebrate getting over his 50th hump.

These folks also attend and tailgate together at Navy football games. I was definitely among friends. I found them to be every bit the solid people as those from Tech with military backgrounds I have been fortunate enough to meet through both the Clubhouse Tailgate and my various writings over the years, the best people I know. Over this extended 4th of July holiday, I admire and salute their service.

With the presence of two sets of fans whose teams have accomplished a fair amount of gridiron success over the years, it could be expected that a substantial amount of conversation would be devoted to the teams. It was. The whole affair, held outside on a very pleasant early July evening with adult beverages close at and in hand, quickly took on a tailgating atmosphere. I even managed to work in a ‘Girls of’ picture. Gimme Eat was provided not by the Grillmaster and Senior Hokie, but came from a local barbecue caterer retained by Pam. It served in a pinch.

So did the band, as a stab was taken at recreating Club Tailgate. While a band that primarily played country music would not have been my first choice, or second or third, I wasn’t paying them and had no say in the matter. The group did, after noticing the numbers of people attired in maroon and decorated with ‘VT’, perform an acceptable version of ‘Enter Sandman.’ Some were taken aback when people next to them suddenly began bouncing up and down upon hearing those opening magic notes, but not many. ‘Sandman’ was played immediately following ‘Rocky Top,’ which had been performed to mostly jeers and hoots of sneering derision not heard since about the middle of the Third Quarter of the last Chicken Bowl, when fans of the Vols began deserting the Georgia Dome en masse. It was a quick and fine recovery by the band.

This family reunion/birthday bash/summer tailgate was a great one. I had a terrific time and couldn’t help but notice that most everybody else was enjoying themselves, too. I’m sure Pam and Ralph will be thrilled to hear of my decision that in the future all family gatherings will involve dozens of people piling into their farm. Or maybe not. In any event, Happy Birthday, Ralph!

Amanda enjoying the band


  1. Katrina — July 5, 2010 #

    I am so very impressed that you have regained your verbal abilities, if not your oral ones, in so short a time frame after the festivities. I am still struggling and in fact am nursing dance injuries sustained at said event.  I did want to note that the eldest Alderson in attendance, Amanda, shut down the house.  Amanda is, as close as I can figure without asking, around 86 as she was my 73 year old father’s teacher when he was in 2nd grade and assuming she was at least 20 at the time. A new Alderson heroine…we were afraid the elders might not enjoy the band. 


    Jim Reply:

    Amanda is a riot. She will still be going strong after the rest of us have been relegated to the sidelines.


  2. Tim — July 6, 2010 #

    The longest three days in my last 10 years.  Three days of camping out, lack of sleep, drinking, horse shoes, foosball leaves me drained.  Coffee doesn’t seem to do the job on this Tuesday after such rest and relaxation.  Maybe tomorrow will see me back to normal.  Thanks to everyone for a really good time and good memories.


  3. Beak — July 6, 2010 #

    Pleasure meeting you and all the Alderson clan this weekend.  It was a great Aldo-fest.  Being a part of the Alderson family if only for a weekend was a wonderful feeling.  That being said, I was unaware that TECH produced writers.  Hope you will stop by and enjoy some Navy Tailgate hospitality after the Boise State game.


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