The Schultz Family Gathering (or Familienfest in the vernacular) is a singular event.
It usually features a hearty meal in a picturesque Bavarian inn, a carefully-prepared powerpoint presentation and musical repertoires courtesy of the constantly evolving younger members of the clan. Its principal charm, however lies in its relentless continuance and large attendance-due in no small part to the generous odds of procreation afforded by a family of nine children, and the large liklihood that this year is Onkel Such-and-Such’s 60th or Tante So-and-So’s 50th.
It has been a tradition familiar to me all my life, but I believe true initiation occurred when I was five years old and hence qualified as the aforementioned younger generation. An aunt was marrying and it was decided that the Ferguson sisters three should perform on their fiddles. Dressed in uniform purple dresses and wearing ivy headpieces, we appraoched the stage where an older cousin had just performed a tap dancing routine. My older sisters played a delightful duet (it could have been the Chaconne, must check). Then it was my turn. I was not skilled enough to join the siblings so naturally I had been given a solo slot.
I played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to raptuorous applause and in the years that followed, I continued to showcase my (very limited) talents, sometimes in small choirs made up of the under 12 Schultz contingent and other times on the recorder and flute to which I had progressed. Lack of ability and regard for the stage did not offer possibilities for exemption. Performance, just like attendance, was mandatory.
There may have been much bemusement and faux resignation regarding the festivities over the years but we all secretly loved them, and still do -well into the age of reason- when work commitments or smiliar could easily offer an excuse not to go.
What’s so amazing about the Schultz Familien Fest is the meticulousness with which it is organised. Seating is strictly arranged according to chronology. Therefore I’m always beside Cousin Maximilian. For years – in fact until my legs grew too long to fit under the kids’ chairs- I was stuck at the Kindertisch. Evrything worked like clockwork, with slight variation year-to-year from the following routine: Starter at 14.00 hours, with power point presentation to precede the main. A wee clink of the glass gives those in attendance the opportunity to add relevant anaecdotes to those already referred to in the presentation. Dessert comes after a brief musical interlude or equivalent performing art. Kaffee und Kuchen served, during which seating plan is allowed to fall apart.
I’m flying off at an ungodly hour in the morning to attend such an event: My Onkel Gideon’s 60th and my Tante Rosemarie’s 50th. This year the family is staying in an inn in the Bavarian forest. My Greek cousins are performing on the violin, recorder and piano. The powerpoints have been made, the seating and sleeping arrangements finalised. This time tomorrow I’ll be in the forest, mingling with Schultz relatives I haven’t seen in years. I can’t wait.