Robin Mason

Kind readers, In this column, I wish to invite you to my family reunion. Grab a covered dish from the tail gate of my dusty van and come on in. Family reunions are a rich part of our Southern Appalachian cultural identity. You and I are neighbors or maybe we are distant kin. We all have a lot to be thankful for and
amongst the most important things, we find our family members and the opportunities to share food and fellowship together. Of course there are individual differences and variations in the units of our clans but there are also some strengths and characteristics that we share in common. For the moment, take a chair there at the long table. Have a cup of coffee or some cider. You are invited to be a “Hackney” from my
father’s side of the family as we celebrate the strength of family bonds and the power of decades of doing life together. Our familial ties and the greatness of the ordinary, unsung people with whom we share our blood and our destinies is celebrated at the family reunion. This year, we chose to honor
some of our oldest great grand aunts and a great grand uncle. I’m even passing a photo around so that you can see how proud we are to have them with us. Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” I want to suggest to all of us Hackneys (at
least we are all Hackneys for 1 day of the year, as we connect with our roots) that we stand on great shoulders. Fred and Florence Hackney (my paternal great grandparents) were fine people and their children were fine people and their children were fine people and well . . . most of the rest of us are trying
to become fine people. If we succeed to some level of doing or being or becoming, it will be in part because of the great shoulders on which we stand. At the reunion today, I want to talk about the great aunts and the great uncle ofour clan, that are present. We are honored to have Robert, Becky, Edna and Dorothy amongst us. I’ve asked Dad’s help in recalling some of the particulars about each of these important family members and I have mixed a few memories and gratitude of m y own into the
reflection. Dad told me that Robert has always been a charismatic type of man. He had a friendly manner and likable nature. Robert’s genuine smile allowed him to befriend almost anyone. In my own life, I have a steady stream of memories of Robert shaking my hand and offering an encouraging word. Becky, Uncle Robert’s wife is a quite presence of a distant relative. I recall her at dinners and gatherings. I can close my eyes and see her sitting on the porch at Grandma Hackney’s house. I can also see her riding in the front seat of Robert’s automobile as the two of them drove me to a meeting for the Georgia Governor’s Honors program, in

Dad was out of town and Mom had become sick. I don’t believe that Robert and Becky hesitated before accepting the request to drive a kid to a life changing interview. I will always remember and appreciate them for that. In much that same way I remember my cousin, Coy Sampson, driving with Rodger and myself as we moved to Kentucky in All of our earthly possessions fit on a box truck and Coy was the driver. More than a decade later I found myself being driven once again by a member of our Hackney clan. Danny Sampson drove me and our infant daughter Alison back to Kentucky, after the burial of my
older brother, Alan. It is interesting as I have fulfilled this reflective request from my uncle AJ, that the Hackney clan has always been active in my life. They were never nosey and I really don’t know where they were or what they were up to, when I didn’t need them. When I did need them, they were there, in
loving support. Dad told me that Edna has always been a real beauty. Her tall, poised grace reminded him of Grandma Hackney and she had a kindly, tolerant nature towards all of the grand kids. Edna was the first person who ever introduced my dad to soft serve ice cream as she enjoyed sharing “modern
conveniences and changes” with the grand kids. Dad said that he always thought thatshe was elegant and a very good woman, as he grew up. No reflection of the remaining aunts and uncles could be complete without me mentioning the famous, competitive checker sessions at Grandma Hackney’s house,in which Dorothy too often trumped my dad. In Dad’s memory Granddaddy Hackney might have been a little biased towards Dorothy’s frequent victories, it certainly seemed that way to him. Granddaddy
Hackney applied just enough of a kidding to keep Dad coming back for 1 more game, 1 more chance to even up the score, and 1 more likely chance to be beaten. Dad acknowledged that Dorothy was a very good checker player and that he has always been a very poor looser. The driving trips, sharing of
encouragement and ice cream, the genuine smiles, the family dinners, these are all examples of the ways that the aunts and uncles have loved us. Each of these people have contributed to my own life in very
significant ways. Who is to say that all of the doors that have opened for me, would have been opened, if I had not been driven to that Governor’s Honor interview with Robert and Becky? What if I didn’t have an
elegant lady like Edna to demonstrate such poise? What if Dorothy didn’t show us that competition can be fun and that winning is worth the effort? Maybe her kidding caused my dad to try harder and harder at everything that he did. Maybe his relentless efforts taught me to set high standards and to keep on trying really hard things. I want to take a minute and thank Uncle Robert, Aunt Becky, Aunt Edna and
Aunt Dorothy for being our near of kin. Thank you for living good lives in front of us. Thank you for encouraging all of us. Thank you for giving us shoulders to stand on, so that we can invest in the lives of the future generations of Hackneys. I see the world that I see and I am doing the things that I can do, just as you all must do the best that you can do, as we stand on the shoulders of giants.

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