Gamel. Kothmann. Cavness. Stockbridge. Schulze. Durst. Leifeste. Jordan.... Mason surnames. There are so many more.... Brandenberger, Zesch, Geistweidt, Lehmberg, Schmidt, Toeppich and Reardon. Family names that, for anyone who has lived in the county for even a short time, are all too familiar. In a county the size of Mason, it is almost impossible to live a day to day life, and not run into a Loeffler, a McMillan, a Brown, a Brannies or a Martinez. Or, to be related to someone from one of those families.
For people who have only moved to the area in the last couple of decades, it can be a bit intimidating to realize that while talking to a Reichenau, they are also speaking with a cousin of the Larrimores, the Millers or the Velezs. It makes for a difficult conversational minefield, never quite knowing how far the connections for any one individual extend, and not knowing if the next casual comment will inadvertently offend because of those connections.
I started thinking about those connections this last weekend during a 90th birthday party for Laura Lawson. The gathering included family members from Schulze, Smith, Dyson, Gamel, Beam, Klingelheffer, Leifeste, Mahon, Splittgerber, Lehmberg,,, well, you get the point. It was a small family gathering; but, by extension, it included connections to so many others.
Everything in Mason has those types of interlinked dynamics. There is nothing that happens, nothing that occurs, that doesn't include an underlying network of familial connections. And, with each passing generation, those connections are tied into and mixed with all the newer families that have arrived. Shoemakers, Habeckers, Akes, Beckmanns, Gentrys, Ceynowas... They may have arrived ten years later than the earliest family, or 110 years; but, within a generation, they become inextricably linked to first one, then two, then five, then twenty of the other families in the county.
I suppose, for those who are newly arrived, such tight family bonds can seem a bit intimidating. People wonder how they are ever going to fit in with all these other folks that have relatives at every turn. Soon, it becomes evident that the family connections are only a basis for our relationships. We take for granted that we're related to someone, and new friendships begin with an assumption that this person has the potential to eventually become family in some form or fashion. After a while, even if the newcomer has not become connected by blood, they become connected by experience and shared lives. They become family by choice.
Those of us in Mason who are related to many others already know that, like any family, we don't always all get along as well as we might be expected. Family members fight, argue and become estranged. Some family members spend their lives avoiding any contact or connection to their relatives. In Mason, we may not always get along perfectly; but, we would be hard pressed to avoid the Martins, the Munozs, the Silerios, the Larrimores or the Hofmanns.
We're going to see each other on the square. We're going to bump into one another at the post office. We will be sitting on opposite sides of the sanctuary at church. If we walk in the Cancer benefit, we may pace ourselves to be on opposite sides of the walking track; but, we know that we're all there. The Hoersters, the Heys, the Grotes, the Dominguezs, the Walkers. We're all there.
In Mason, whether your family has been here for generations or just for a few years, we all become family. We support one another, we chastise behavior, we fight about politics, we show up for weddings and funerals. Saying you're related to someone in Mason is a redundant statement. You're related to the Haines, you're related to the Gibbs. You have cousins that are Bodes and Zavalas and Castillos and Johnsons.
For better or worse, we are family, and we live our lives proving that point. Every minute of every day, we celebrate being related to the Holloways, the Underwoods, the Bauers and the Baxters. We don't really have a choice not to be members of this huge family, so we may as well enjoy the ride!
It’s all just my opinion.