One Thousand Miles For A Birthday, Memorial And Family
You might remember my Uncle Marvin died in a car accident a few weeks ago. He was cremated and his memorial service scheduled a few weeks out to ensure my Aunt Gloria would be able to attend. She hit her head in the accident pretty hard, which earned her stitches. And a broken wrist needed surgery, which earned her a pin and some wires, along with a cast and a sling.
I flew up to St. Louis on Friday morning. A day early, which ensured some much needed time with a cousin and her family. I haven’t seen Becca since before Wyatt was born. Wyatt is now five. Too, too long. Too long for a cousin, who with her sister, solidifies my childhood memories of St. Charles and the years before I entered double digits. She is a strong connection to my childhood, which seemed appropriate for this weekend back in my hometown.
There is a certain familiarity and comfort that comes with family. A safety zone where guards can be dropped and we can be ourselves without worry of judgment or the withdrawal of love. Even in meeting Becca’s husband and their son for the first time, it was like old times. Like we’ve known each other from the beginning. Wyatt was an extension of my cousin in way that I could pull him into my lap and tickle the heck out of him when he showed me his belly. Like he was my own.?We walked the riverfront and Main St. of St. Charles. For me, it was an awakening to see the cobblestone streets and brick buildings through adult eyes. To take in the history of footsteps walked since the 1800s and appreciate how long these buildings have stood. Through storms, floods and generations of families, who even now live in them and run their businesses.
Saturday was an emotional day. My birthday was the day before. The first I have been away from my honeys. Ever. And the first I’ve spent with cousins since I was in the single digits and lived in St. Charles, Missouri. Saturday was filled with conversations that made me realize how complicated family relationships are and how they got that way. I won’t lie, I cried like a four year old, complete with snorts, hiccups and uncontrollable belly jumps as I was hugged like a four year old. It’s a heavy weight to bear, to learn more about a family history that has nothing to do with me, yet see how it tears apart the ones I love most. My uncle’s memorial service honored a kind hearted man with a quiet faith that he preferred to live out by example, rather than preaching it for others to hear. There were stories of his farmland, how he loved his land and studied the weather. And how he taught his children, nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews (excluding me. I was robbed!) how to drive on his farm. Marvin’s sense of humor was recounted, making me realize that my enjoyment in fooling people may run in the family. And that jokes he pulled off can be repeated, even at his reception following where I was mistaken for my Dad’s wife rather than daughter. My Dad looks younger than his years, but I’m not going to dwell on my age and appearance too much here. I will just say that I didn’t immediately clear up that misconception and suspected my Uncle Marvin might have been laughing. Saturday was a day of hearing voices and laughter I haven’t heard in years. I soaked it up, but couldn’t bring myself to pull out my camera. The day was too filled with sorrow on various fronts that I. I just don’t want to remember or hold onto. So I left it in my bag and lived in the moment, thankful to be shoulder-to-shoulder at tables with aunts and uncles and cousins.
The gloom of Saturday stayed with me into Sunday, but was slowly erased with the help of my cousin Erica. We returned my rental car early, which earned a sizeable refund. Winning! We drove around Kirkwood and saw our grandparents’ home where our moms and uncles were raised. The houses seemed small and the trees humongous.
We went to the Magic House to act like seven year olds. We were there for about thirty minutes before a nasty storm blew through that knocked out power and had the employees shouting through walkie talkies to move everyone to the basement. We hung out in a teepee for over twenty minutes before being allowed to wander the floors of the Magic House again. The power was still out. The static generator to create crazy hair was out of service as a result. I felt gypped. We followed that up with a Mexican lunch before heading off to the St. Louis Zoo for an hour and a half. We saw lions and tigers and bears, oh my! And hippos. That sounded like Jabba the Hut laughing. So bizarre. And sea lions happily swimming upside down with smiles on their faces.
We saw big cats who ignored the kids meowing at them like they were house cats.
Cats with long tails. That I really wanted to snap. (Confession: I snap my cats tails. And they like it. They come back for more.) I think they would have liked it, too. If given the chance. My cousin Erica disagreed.
Erica returned me to the airport with a hug and the promise we will see each other again in a couple of weeks for a quick get together. And so I returned to Atlanta, through bumpy skies with lightning displays and over a thousand miles covered by air and land in less than sixty hours. Returned to my honeys, sleeping children and cats and dogs who couldn’t sniff me enough. It was such a full weekend, but I am thankful I made the trek, shed a few too many tears and saw my family. All to remember a man, who loved the land and his own family, beyond measure.