April 14, 2009

A Trip Back in Time...and a New Road Taken

Well, we did it! After driving over 20 hours and crossing through five states, Dan, the kids and I returned home tired but smiling. In between our leaving and returning, we passed the miles with countless games of I Spy and Blokus (a cool puzzle game thingy), many DVDs, far too many snack and hours of music. I think sibling civil war only broke out in the back seat a time or two.

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.”

~Desmond Tutu


Saleslady371 said...

Sounds like you had a lot of fun. Thank you for sharing your family with us! Glad you are home safely.

Dan said...

So many memories of a great trip...not the least of which being our (re-)introduction to the Bible Belt. We've been in the south before, but guess we just never noticed it before. Man...y'all got churches of every kind, on every corner, in the cities, in the towns, in the middle of nowhere, off side streets, in shopping malls, at elementary schools...WOW! Seriously, the one we went to on Easter Sunday - Life Community Church in Wilmington, NC was in the corner of a strip mall, right between a bakery and a tackle shop or something - which now that I think of it, has weird "loaves and fishes" irony. Anybody in the south who says "We just can't find a church we like," simply isn't looking. There's probably one meeting in your basement.

Sassy Granny ... said...

A well written saga! I love reaching back and plucking a memory here, a memory there ... and then mining it for all it's worth. Even the hard stuff has purpose with the passage of time, but the good stuff? Well, that's just precious new musings to treasure!

So glad you have this new picture (the real one as well as the entire new memory). What a beautiful family!


Anonymous said...

Hi Kellie,

Welcome back! It sounds like you had a wonderful time wih your family. Thank you for sharing.


JerryLyn said...

Kelli, So glad your trip was filled with so many happy memories. Reading your post gave me goosebumps...realizing how special families are...where our foundation is built and tested and nurtured. It's so good to recall all your past memories and make new ones...bonds that you will always cherish. Love the picture!

Terri Tiffany said...

What a wonderful story! You should submit to the family book one Chicken soup is doing!
We are like your family--we all grew up, moved away or pulled apart. Gone are the moments we used to laugh together in, and now it is empty. I wish something like that could happen for us but not sure how!

Katie said...

Glad you had a great time!

Cheryl Barker said...

Kelli, I just posted about Catch-up Sessions. Sounds like you had a giant one! Good for you!!

Chatty Kelly said...

That is so GREAT! And you passed right through my neck of the woods! (I'm in Virginia). Why didn't you stop by? LOL!

I enjoy getting together with my siblings and our kids together and it is neat to see everyone growing up.


Julie Gillies said...

Oh yay, Kelli! I love getting together with family over the holidays. We don't live close to family, so it always means SO much to me any time I can spend time with anyone I'm related to. LOL

And Williamsburg! I've always wanted to go. Sounds like you guys had a grand time. Nice photo, too. You're a good-looking bunch. :)

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Treasured memories. I know that beach, and the barbeque? Did you eat eastern NC barbeque? I don't enjoy it at all! Give me red sauce and some sweetness any day.

By the way, have I told you lately that you're one fantastic penner of words?

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