My Memories of the Hayman Reunion
by Tara Huber


I would like to start off by saying that I now have a family of eight: myself, Adam, Madisyn (8), Ryan (8), Sydney (7), Katie (6), Drew (6) and Sammy (3). We truly are the real-life Brady Bunch! Minus the maid. We do have a golden retriever named Toby if he counts as an acceptable maid for 6 kids. Every day is a new adventure, and every day brings new challenges that we face together, but it is so amazing that I would not change one single thing about it. When I close my eyes at the end of every day, I am happy to be where I am. I have been reflecting on my childhood memories quite a bit lately. I realized that most of my favorite memories from being a kid lead me back to the Hayman Reunion and to Southern Ohio, to my roots in Meigs County. I want to share those roots with my children, and I want them to have the same experiences that I have been so blessed to have.

For as long as I can remember I have traveled to Meigs County for our Hayman reunion. I have been traveling to southern Ohio probably since before I was born. I am a city girl in the life that I live, but the deepest parts of my soul belong to Meigs County. I remember waiting every year, a whole 12 months for the reunion to come around. Thinking of the time I spent running around the hills of the campsite with a flash light in hand, nothing but the darkness in front of me, and screaming out S.O.S makes me smile. As I sit around the campsite, I watch my own children repeat the same fun filled activities as I did as a child, and it honestly brings tears to my eyes. This year we will come equipped with at least 6 flash lights, and enough batteries to last a life time.

I remember the most important thing for me at the reunion as a child, was catching 'hop toads' with Great Grandma Hayman. I never had a problem crawling under the deck just to find that poor little hop toad that I would shove into a dirty glass jar. Most likely to let it go and catch it again an hour later. You probably could not pay me enough to crawl underneath that deck now. As a child I had incredible energy, but I do not remember Great Grandma Hayman ever complaining. She always had an endless amount of patience with us kids. Now, as I pass the cement blocks in front of 'Grandma's house', I cannot keep myself from peaking in the holes that as a child, produced a never ending supply of hop toads way back when. My kids probably think I am crazy when they see how excited I get if we find one now. Hop Toads will always remind me of Grandma Hayman no matter where I am.

The smell of the house has not changed in what for me would be 28 years now. I welcome the old smell gratefully as I enter the house, and as I leave, I savor the breeze that ignites the memories of my childhood summers. The porch swing is my favorite spot. As I sit with my own kids on that swing, I look back on the memories of sitting with my mama and how I had not a care in the world but to be there at that exact moment with her. The creaks in the wooden floorboards are comforting, and I'm sorry Grandpa Hayman, but I absolutely love to hear that screen door slam. I still look forward to the aroma of the most wonderful noodles in the world, and I impatiently wait for the evening to set in so I can indulge myself with a big bowl of homemade ice cream. The sound of Grandpa Hayman, Grandma Sally, Aunt Linda, Uncle Don, and Aunt Donna talking at the table in the kitchen fill my head. I never realize how much I will miss their voices until I. am on my way home on Sunday. Once again, I find myself eagerly waiting for another 12 months to pass.

I eat my fill for what should be a whole year of burnt hot dogs, and roasted marshmallows. I finally understand why mom and dad always yelled at us to stay away from the fire pit. I scold my own kids now to stay back so that they don't fall-in. The food at the park is still the best smelling food you could possibly inhale anywhere else in the world. The way it gets so quiet when everyone is reading the Hayman Holler is too cool, and then there is always that crunch from Uncle Keith munching on his Kahns potato chips to break the silence. I rise early to make sure that I get first pick of the breakfast food, and I as I grow older, that first cup of coffee is becoming more essential to waking up. For as long as I live I will contest that there is no coffee in the world that can hold a match to a cup of percolated coffee made by Uncle Don. I catch a whiff of the propane running the portable stoves, and I laugh out loud as I listen to the guys swap cooking tips. Some things are worth remembering.

I enjoy the late night conversations with family around the campfire. I try and record in my mind the exact moment when Uncle Eddie falls asleep in his chair, so I can tell him the following year how hilarious it really was. Someone always brings a guitar to play and this year I will talk Adam into bringing his. I welcome the stories that I have heard so many times, I could probably recite them in my sleep. I look forward to watching the fireworks that Uncle Keith so graciously treats us to every year. I too, as many have said before, cannot halt the overwhelming urge to cry when "I Can Only Imagine" is played. My children look forward to the trailer ride they receive every year from Uncle Keith. And I must admit that I look forward to a ride for the big kids on the mule after all the younguns are tucked away tightly in the tent :)

A few years ago, I think I played so much kickball and volleyball that I was stiff and sore for an entire 2 weeks. Ask me if it was worth it and I would probably say yes. I want Uncle Pete to know that I will be doing some serious training all summer long, gearing myself up for the reunion activities, so that I do not have to take as many breaks as last time. Just kidding Pete, but really as long as it is not too hot, I want to join in because that was a lot of fun and you only live once. I uncomfortably watch my tiny little babies fly full speed ahead down a steep hill on a 4-wheeled metal wagon. I have to chuckle to myself as I am a complete and nervous wreck, knowing what I must have put my parents through when I was a kid. The whole time, mom would say, "Tara, they’re alright, they’re having fun, you did the same thing when you were a kid."

Even though I have grown up, I still feel like a 5 year old child when I pack our bags to head down to the reunion. I look forward to the winding back roads and the sights along the way. Does anybody else notice that the air somehow gets sweeter and fresher as you get further south? I cannot get from one side of Columbus to the next "with" directions, but if you want to go to Meigs County I will lead the way proudly. My kids already know, at their young age, when we are almost there. They recognize the buildings and structures that mark our journey. They cannot contain their excitement when they finally see the beautiful Ohio river in good ol' Pomeroy. I hope that this year as we travel, my kids will share with the new additions to our family what they have learned from me and what they can remember themselves. I can only hope that with their tales of 'fun stuff to get into', it only adds to the wonder and excitement for the 3 that have never been there before. I also know that my amazing family will welcome the new little ones with open arms, because my family are some of the most wonderful people I know.

I want our children to make memories of their own. I would like for them all to remember the smell of the grass, and the rustling of the corn stalks swaying in the evening with the cool breeze. The sound of the gravel underneath their feet when they make their hundredth trip from the campsite to grandma’s house, and the crackling of the blazing fire as they eat their crispy marshmallows. I want them to remember what the morning air smells like when their little toes are wet with dew. I want them to remember how many jumps that hop toad took before they finally caught it. Most of all, I want them to remember how great it is to hear their own laughter echoing in the hills as they make their own memories. I want them to think back as fondly as I do of my time at the Hayman Reunions. I smile to myself and I take extreme comfort in believing that they will.