There were tears, smiles and lots of "Oh baby, how big you've grown." There were 231 pounds of chicken, 60 pounds of spare ribs, 28 pounds of ham, 24 pounds of turkey, 50 pounds of potato salad, six gallons of strong beans and a bushel of collard greens.
And, jammed into the back yard of a Seat Pleasant home, were 200 people, representing four generations, six states and a dozen different surnames. It was the seventh annual Johnson family reunion, known affectionately as the Johnson Theory of Relativity to those who gathered to celebrate last Saturday.
"Getting the whole family together and enjoying ourselves is what it's all about," grinned reunion chairman Daisy Thompson, 60, a retired federal employe living in Northeast Washington. "We're blessed with a beautiful, large family and the only time we get to see everybody is at the reunion."
The high spirited crowd, ranging in age from 80 years to three months, gathered in the backyard of Thompson's daughter and son-in-law, Ann and Earl Williams, who live at 1213 Carrington Ave.
Family albums exchanged hands: long-lost cousins were soundly hugged, and the majestic picnic spread was devoured in the course of the afternoon.
Several hours of games followed the picnic, and the festivities were capped with a disco-and-dinner evening and election of new family officers at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Northeast Washington.
The annual reunion is the brain child of Annie Johnson, Shirely McFarland and Helen Bell, who organized the first family affair in North Carolina in 1972.
"A family isn't something you can go out and buy, so when you've got a big, beautiful one like ours you've got to hang on it," said Johnson who traveled the longest distance, about 500 miles from Evanston, Ill., to attend the reunion. "Out parents and grandparents gave us pride and honesty. We want to hang onto it and pass it on to our children by keeping the family ties together."
"Before we started holding reunions, the only time we saw most of our relatives was when there was a tragedy - an accident or death," added McFarland, 43, of North Carolina. "These reunions are like a jigsaw puzzle. After awhile you meet everyone, and each person begins to fit into the family picture."
To aid family members in fitting their kinfolk into the family plan, family historian Thompson compiled a 36-page Johnson Family History, which she distributed to all the guests. This combination Who's Who and program guide traced the Johnson family back seven generations to Thompson's grandfather Tom Johnson, a farmer born in 1853 in North Carolina, and his wife Vastie.
Thompson compiled the extensive listings by researching her ancestry in the National Archives and by sending letters soliciting family information to 25 key relatives around the country.
"I remember how exciting it was to find a record of my grandfather," smiled Thompson's daughter Ann Williams, who helped compile the history. "I shouted out 'Eureka' right there in the middle of the National Archives."
The concept of a "Roots-style" family reunion at first discouraged Obra Kernodle III, a Philadelphia attorney, from attending the celebration.
"I went basically for the opportunity to travel with my children, my grandfather and my father - there were four generations in our car.
"Then, when I got there, I found out that this has been going on for seven years. So I realized that here were people interested in looking into roots before most people over heard of 'Roots'"
There was something for everyone at the well-organized event, which Thompson said took her eight months to plan.
"I just fell blessed to be able to be here today," smiled the eldest family member present, Thompson's 80-year-old sister, Edna Strickland of SE Washington. "Seeing all my fine family here together is wonderful."
"I like getting to meet people that I didn't know," volunteered 12-year-old Tammy Williams. "Playing basketball is fun, too."
"It's just fantastic to see everybody here having a good time," added her mother, hostess Ann Williams. "All our hard work was worth it."
"I like the chicken best," piped 5-year-old Raigan Kernodle.
"We've got a pretty special family all right," nodded family president Bob Johnson of Jamaica, N.Y. "Next year we're hoping to charter a bus to get everyone to the reunion. Everyone saves the last weekend in June for the Johnson family reunion. I wouldn't miss it for the world."