Monday, March 25, 2013

A Night To Remember

By Colleen Pagnani

This story is about my mother, Mary Anne Pagnani’s memories of a massive family reunion, which celebrated her Irish heritage in the homeland. I also happened to attend the event. This is her account of the night.

With a mother who was born the second oldest of fifteen children, it is obvious that Mary Anne Pagnani has a massive family. As one of 64 grandchildren, many of whom went on to have their own kids, one can say family gatherings were huge, yet hard because it was almost impossible to get everyone under one roof. That all changed in August of 2000 when the Maher family met up in County May, Ireland for a two-week stay, including a night they would never forget.

The Maher family reunion was one for the ages, and for those in attendance, like Mary Anne, a moment she would “remember forever.” Fortunately, in 2000, all fifteen children were still alive and healthy, so it could not have been scripted more perfectly.
While I was talking with Mary Anne, she could not help but struggle when she tried counting all of her first cousins. It’s typical for an outsider to lose track over the unbelievable number, but for a member of the family to do it just shows its size. “Over 400 people showed up that night” to celebrate the clan Maher, “not just grandchildren, but an endless number of first and second cousins as well. And that was not even everyone,” she recalled.
A nice dinner, skits performed by family members of all ages acting out the family’s history, and hired entertainers, like a magician for the young ones, all made the event that more special. “Even though I was already very knowledgeable regarding my family’s heritage, watching it play out in front of me, with my own kids, was the perfect way to celebrate,” Mary Anne said.

It is almost thirteen years later and Mary Anne still cannot seem to get that night out of her head. In short, she summarized the memory by saying, “The celebration lasted two weeks, but that one night in particular was a once in a lifetime event that brought one family together from all over the world. Nothing made me happier than seeing my own mother, and all fourteen of her siblings, in one room at the same time. Thanks to the impeccable planning done by my Uncle, what we thought would be impossible exceeded our expectations.”

From Ireland to England, to the U.S. and Canada, fifteen siblings got together to take one picture as one family for the first time in years. It also happened to be the last time. Sadly, few have passed since then, but on that one night in August, the Maher family appeared perfect.

“The intention of the whole night was to get the siblings together one last time before they grew unable to travel, and also to teach the younger generations the family’s culture and religion so they could continue the traditions. I feel as we did just that, and I could not be more proud to be a part of something so extraordinary,” said Mary Anne.

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