Both of us grew up on the east coast and most of our families are still there, so any time we have the chance to see them, it’s a special occasion. The last time we’d seen both of our families was at our wedding two summers ago. So, it was definitely time to plan a trip back east to visit them.
We decided to go to North Carolina, where Kirk’s grandmother and a couple of his uncles live. Once we let the rest of his family know, the trip turned into a small family reunion. Kirk’s brother made plans to fly in from Los Angeles and Kirk’s parents made plans to drive down from outside of Pittsburgh, along with Kirk’s two nephews. Unfortunately, his sister wasn’t able to get the time off from work, but she was definitely there in spirit (and via FaceTime).
Although Kirk had been several times, it would be my first time in North Carolina and I was excited for the chance to explore some place new.
It was shortly before 6:00 am when we landed in Charlotte. Bleary-eyed, we got our rental car and headed out in search of breakfast before driving up into the mountains where Kirk’s grandmother lives.
We both love to travel. It’s important to disrupt your routine every now and then and to see new places and new faces. Even just walking around a park early in the morning, we were reminded that we were in a very different place. The air was different, thick and heavy. The sounds of the birds were different. And there were some very loud insects--I’d forgotten what a racket cicadas can make, but it was also nice to be remintrided of the melody of crickets.
Although I’ve meet Kirk’s parents and siblings several times, I had only ever met his grandmother once at our wedding. We got to spend some time together during our wedding week, but I was pulled in so many different directions that we didn’t really get a good chance to know one another.
We got to her house around lunchtime and enjoyed lunch on her sun porch before taking a much needed nap. We were awoken by the sound of soft thunder and the patter of rain. Another reminder that we were out of our bubble: though Portland gets plenty of rain, we rarely get thunder with it. After we got up, we helped make dinner and stayed up into the evening, chatting, laughing, and telling stories.
That first day became something of a model for the rest of our trip even if the players shifted a bit. Each day of our trip was filled with family and friends and fun. The experiences we had and the memories we made more than made up for the fact that we felt more tired than when we’d left.
It was a good reminder that our families are some of the most important and influential people in our lives. And I don’t mean that in a saccharine way. I mean that in a very real and consequential way. It was really fascinating and enjoyable to see four generations of Kirk’s family together. I am fairly observant of people and how they interact with each other. It was great to notice little ways in which Kirk’s dad is very much like Kirk’s grandmother. How Kirk echoes some of the intonations and patterns of speech in his mother. And how his nephews are unmistakably related to their great-grandmother.
Family is always with us, no matter how far we travel from home, even if it’s just in the way that we say certain words. As a history major, I am fascinated by origin stories. Where do customs come from? Why do we put the fork on the left side of the plate? Why do people from Western Pennsylvania put French fries on everything? Family is everyone’s ultimate origin story. Everyone grew up surrounded by some group of people and it’s important that we don’t discount that group’s importance in our adult lives.
As Kirk and I continue our journey towards starting our own family, I have started to appreciate more our families of origin and all they’ve done to get us to where we are, as well as all of the support that they’ve given us so far in this journey.