A friend of mine recently arranged a reunion for her family.  She is in her 50’s and has not seen some of her aunts, uncles, and cousins since childhood.  My own story is similar.  I went to college, got married, and moved away.  Funerals were the only time we got together, one aunt remarked.  So she took it upon herself to plan a reunion, a cook-out at the state park.  Now, before you read what happened and get all judgy, I’d like to make two statements in my own defense:  At the time, I was slightly nearsighted (20/30, or maybe 20/40) and I was not wearing my glasses.  Also, the pavilion where ‘my people’ were located wasn’t one of the ones readily visible from the parking lot.  So, here goes:


We hadn’t gotten together in years
unless funerals count,
so we made plans for a family reunion
at the state park.

Nobody under the picnic pavilions
looked familiar to me,
but we had been away a long time
and people change.

I spotted my mom tending the grill,
her backside anyway—
wispy brown hair, polyester shorts
that came to her knees.

I grabbed the bean salad I’d made
and on the way over,
my husband and I were intercepted
by a fat, jolly lady.

She took the bean salad from me.
“This looks delicious!”
she gushed, setting it on the table.
She pulled us into a hug.

I couldn’t place her… a great-aunt?
One I’d never met?
She said to load up our plates and
make ourselves at home.

I walked toward the grill instead
to say hello to mom,
but it wasn’t mom, just some lady
shooing flies with her spatula.

I knew the answer to my question
before I even asked it.
“Is this the Nieset family reunion?”
She shook her head.

Hubby’s bemused glare said it all:
Jesus H. Christ, Joan,
you don’t even know your own family?

I went back to get the bean salad.
A few scoops were missing.
“Leaving so soon?  You just got here!”
The jolly lady again.

“I goofed,” I said, my cheeks burning.
“Wrong pavilion.”
“Couldn’t you at least stay for a photo?”
She was persistent.

Dumbfounded, we agreed, and they
gathered around us,
everyone smiling and saying “cheese”
as the camera flashed.

After she’s gone, Jolly Lady’s children
will peruse her albums,
wondering who we are and how the heck
we ended up in their photo.

They’ll check the scrawled notation
on the reverse side and
where our names should be, it will say
The Bean Salad People.

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  1. Tippy Gnu October 7, 2018 / 10:00 am

    That lady was so accommodating, maybe you should have allowed her to adopt you into her family. Then you could go to two family reunions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 7, 2018 / 11:34 am

      Thanks, Tippy, but I don’t need any “extra” family gatherings to attend. Before we left, Jolly Lady invited us to “come on back if things got too boring” at our real family reunion. At the time, I accepted 100% of the blame for the mistake, but it occurred to me later that if I didn’t know them from Adam, the reverse must also be true. So why had they behaved like we belonged there? And eaten half of my bean salad? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tippy Gnu October 7, 2018 / 11:43 am

        I went to one of my in-laws family reunions once, and I remember people saying, “Who’s that person?” quite a lot. So your mistake, funny as it is, is also quite understandable.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. murisopsis October 7, 2018 / 6:54 pm

    I LOVE this! I can so relate! Sparky’s family is larger than most and this is definitely a possible scenario!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 7, 2018 / 8:06 pm

      Thanks, Muri. My family was in a pavilion in the woods, like a quarter mile trek down a bumpy dirt path. Pity whoever had to carry the giant cooler of sodas! I’m guessing it was the cheapest to rent because it was so far from the parking lot and downwind from the restrooms. I brought nine-bean salad because I was in my vegetarian phase at the time. Reminds me of a “church bulletin funny” I saw in Reader’s Digest years ago: “Bean Supper Saturday at 5 PM, music to follow.” 🙂


    • Just Joan October 8, 2018 / 5:05 pm

      Thanks, Snoozin. I think they would happily have adopted us, if we were game. What could be more fun than picnicking, tossing water balloons, and playing Corn Hole with a bunch of friendly strangers? 🙂


  3. K E Garland October 9, 2018 / 5:31 pm

    LOL – don’t feel bad. Recently, I posted a picture of myself and a friend. A cousin was like, “time flies.” I knew immediately she thought it was my daughter, even though my daughter and this person are 15 years apart in age smh…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 12, 2018 / 6:20 pm

      Thanks, KE. I guess we all make mistakes based on our assumptions, even far-fetched ones like your cousin’s. I’m pretty much over it; it happened YEARS ago. What blew me away about Jolly Lady and her family is that even after I confessed to being in the wrong pavilion, they still wanted us to be in their photo. A weird twist to an already weird story. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. L. T. Garvin, Author October 9, 2018 / 9:39 pm

    Oh Joan, ha ha, there are sure plenty of people in my family I wouldn’t recognize, LOL. Sadly though, after my grandmother passed, the extended family never got together anymore, or maybe they did and just didn’t invite me 😀 All in all, they sound like a lovely group of people to have their get-together crashed. I love a good bean salad myself 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 10, 2018 / 7:54 am

      Thanks, Lana. Really, nobody looked familiar (except the lady at the grill who maybe did, to the visually impaired). I’ve always hated those “HELLO, MY NAME IS _____” nametags, but this presents a strong case for them. My dad’s family rarely had get-togethers. My mom’s did regularly until Grandma passed away, then it was kind of hit and miss. Jolly Lady and her family were fun, and good sports about the whole thing. The bean salad I make is called Texas Caviar–assorted beans, black-eyed peas, corn, tomatoes, olives, bell pepper, jalapenos, onions, and garlic drowned in Italian dressing. No mayo, so great for summer picnics. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. judyrutrider October 9, 2018 / 9:53 pm

    If someone showed up at our family reunion with something other than a Jello salad or a hamburger helper casserole, they would be warmly welcomed by me, that’s for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 10, 2018 / 8:58 am

      Thanks, Judy. I’ve been told that the first things to disappear off restaurant buffets are Jell-O salads and casseroles with cheese melted on top, because they look comforting and familiar. Maybe that’s what your family is aiming for. 🙂 But sometimes people want something out of the ordinary. Hubby talked me into making a very un-traditional chocolate torte one Thanksgiving, and it was the first dessert to disappear.


  6. circumstance227 February 23, 2019 / 4:33 pm

    OR . . . at their next reunion they will all be wondering why Aunt Bean Salad didn’t show up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan February 23, 2019 / 5:00 pm

      Reminds me of a funny I saw, it had originally appeared in a church bulletin: Bean supper on Saturday at 6 pm, music to follow. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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