Our first stop and a first for my kids and me: Williamsburg, where we spent several days exploring Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and even an outlet mall. It turned out to be a great family destination, except the kids had limited patience with all the “boring history.” My plea to get up early so we could hear George Washington give a wartime update in the garden of the Governor’s Palace was met with resistance bordering on a coup. (Go figure!) Thankfully the smaller-scale, more hands-on aspect of Jamestown captivated the kids attention. (Although listening to an architectural dissertation on the fifth church to be built at Jamestown may have pushed the limits of their patience a bit too far. Dan and I, however, found it fascinating.)
Our final destination: Wilmington, NC to visit my cousins for the Easter weekend.
I have a small family, measured in tens not hundreds. As a kid, we’d often enjoy holiday celebrations at my aunt and uncle’s house near the Jersey shore. Even though our numbers were small, our gatherings were filled with lots of laughter, lots of storytelling…and lots of food! When my uncle’s family joined the festivities, they brought an added measure of merriment. Holidays at Aunt D’s are a precious memory of my growing up.
But as they often do, circumstances changed. My aunt and uncle got divorced. I went to college, as did my sister and then my two cousins. In time my sister moved to Florida, my cousins to North Carolina, and even my aunt joined them a few years ago. From our family nest, only my parents and I remain up “north.”
The warm memories of holidays past are just that—memories.
Of course my husband and I have created our own traditions, but part of me has missed the gatherings of my youth. Besides weddings, life and distance have kept all of us from joining together for probably 20 years!
Last winter I had an idea that percolated and bubbled to the surface: What if us Northerners made a road trip down south and gathered together for Easter in North Carolina? Soon, a plan was formed. And even after several near deaths due to apathy and budget concerns, the idea refused to die. So, last Tuesday we loaded up the car and headed south. My parents followed behind, and my sister and aunt headed north from Florida. By Friday night we’d all arrived.
This weekend an old memory was rekindled—and a new one was born. See, time’s marched on since the days of my youth. The parents are now grandparents, the children have children of their own, and husbands and significant others add a delightful freshness. But, just as hoped we all blended together perfectly. And, just like the old days, we shared lots of laughs, lots of storytelling…and lots of great food!
I loved to see my children getting to know family they knew only slightly. Joining in on the fun. And feeling part of something bigger than our usual small circle.
And as we joined hands to say the blessing for Easter dinner, I realized it’s the connections we have to our family that help define us, nurture us and anchor us. Our familial ties provide a safe haven and a place to find respite. Most of all, they’re a place to find love and acceptance—just because.
I don’t know when we’ll all get together again. I hope soon. I do know that if we don’t make an effort, somedays will become tomorrows that never come.
Today I bask in the memories of a special time together and am so thankful for a truly wonderful weekend. To my sweet, crazy, funny, serious, intelligent, wise-cracking, ditzy, caring, God-loving family, I love y’all!
Now, can one of you tell me where we got the barbecue from?
“You don’t choose your family.
They are God’s gift to you,
as you are to them.”