Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Extended family

As I ponder my blessings, I must share a wonderful experience I had several weeks ago. I had the pleasure of traveling to upper east Tennessee and southwest Virginia a few weeks ago to spend two days with two special nieces. These two young women are sisters, same father (my oldest brother), different mothers.

I became an aunt for the first time at age 12 which was probably the single most exciting thing that had happened in my life up to that point. A year after my oldest brother and his wife delivered their first baby girl, they delivered another sweet baby girl. Those two little girls have always had a very special place in my heart. I feel that they are part mine!

On a Thursday afternoon, I left my home and drove to Weber City, VA to spend a couple of nights with one of those precious girls and her two sons. We stayed in the childhood home of her grandfather (her mother's father, so no kin to me.) The home is now owned by his youngest brother and has been beautifully furnished with antiques and lots of books. That's my idea of a great combination.

We sat up until the wee hours talking and enjoying each other's company. I slept in a bed covered with an old, handmade quilt in a room furnished with antiques.

On Friday morning, my niece's great aunt, (her grandfather's sister) came and picked us up and drove us to Gray, TN. We toured the Gray Fossil site which lies about a quarter mile from the high school from which I graduated. When we left the fossil site, we traveled on into Johnson City where we met my other niece for lunch.

Though these two young women are sisters, they had not seen each other since the younger was about one year old and the older was around eleven or twelve. Amazingly, they "took" right to each other and conversed as though they had known each other their whole lives.

After we finished our lunch, we went to a local park which overlooks Boone Lake, took a very short walk, and then left for Weber City again due to storm clouds quickly moving in during our walk.

Upon arriving at the house, the two boys quickly went to their rooms. Both being in the tween/teen stage, they had their own amusements to keep them busy on a rainy afternoon. Meanwhile, we womenfolk sat at the antique kitchen table and learned that it was the actual table where Aunt C. and her siblings had eaten their meals while growing up in this house.

The afternoon passed so quickly as we sat and shared our lives with one another. There we were, four women, representing three generations of an extended, disjointed family, thoroughly enjoying one another's company. We shared stories of our spouses, our children, our siblings, our parents' influence, or lack thereof, on our lives. We laughed together so hard at times that we nearly cried. Even though some of us had not seen each other for 20+ years, we were able to converse as though this was a daily experience. We shared that invisible bond of family, belonging. And even though our ages were diverse, 60's, 40's, 30's, and 20's, and even though we had been separated due to divorce and conflicts beyond our control, we had so much to share with one another. We each contributed to the flow of conversation and enjoyed listening to one another as well. Story after story we soon learned we had totally lost track of the time (8 pm) and left for a late supper at a local diner. Aunt C. asked us if we had ever eaten at the Hob Nob and when we answered, "No," all around, she replied that we "had to go to the Hob Nob, cause you aren't anybody until you eat at the Hob Nob." So now we are all somebody, and we enjoyed our time and food at the Hob Nob. We were joined there by yet another cousin from the extended family of my 30-something niece. And again, we all talked and shared and enjoyed the time.

The next morning, my niece Ms. R. (30+) and her sons had to travel back to middle TN to visit a little longer there and then head home to the northwest U.S. So I met Ms. E. (my 20+ niece) and we drove past my childhood home. Then we traveled to one of my favorite restaurants, The Farmer's Daughter, in upper E. TN in Chuckey. We enjoyed wonderful home cooking while visiting with two of my close friends from my 20-something years.

After lunch, I headed home and Ms. E. headed back to her home. Ms. E. and I just reconnected a few months ago after also being separated since she was a toddler. So each time I have a visit with her is precious and a learning/growing experience.

As I drove home, I couldn't help but count my blessings. I had just shared two incredible days with two precious young women (and two precious young men also, Mr M. and Mr. R.) As well, I had time with "Aunt C." and my two friends. And during my drive home, I was surrounded by the beautiful mountains of east Tennessee driving from views of one area back into the views of the Great Smokies! How blessed I am!

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