It may sound silly, after all the places I’ve been and people I’ve stayed with, but I was nervous about coming here, to Sugar Land, to stay with family I’ve only met once, 20 years ago. I wasn’t sure if they really wanted me to visit, or if I’d be an inconvenience that they’d put up with because I am a relative. I planned to stay just one night, not only because I need to reach Atlanta in time for Tara’s birthday, but because I didn’t want to prolong any awkwardness. Boy, was I wrong!
It’s amazing how many things are genetic. This has occurred to me more than once on this trip (in San Francisco, hanging out with my cousins’ dad; in Oregon, visiting my best friend’s brother), but never has it directly related to me. Here, with my dad’s mother’s family, I found out where so many of my traits come from.
I always knew I got a lot from my nana, but I guess I never considered that there might be others who share the same characteristics. I really wish I could still be here when my nearly 99-year-old nana Mary visits her 94-year-old sister Bea in a couple of weeks. They are both intelligent (still sharp as tacks in their 90s), have better memories than me, and are strong, independent, feisty women. Never mind strong-willed and stubborn. (There’s some of this on my mom’s side, too, so I got a double helping!)
And I have had such fun (and have so much in common) with my cousin Joncille, who, along with her husband Darryl, welcomed me into their home with open arms. She’s a great tour guide not only of Sugar Land, but of our family history. As we drove around and saw the sugar factory and the first planned community in the area, she also told me stories about my nana, her three sisters and brother growing up in Lake Charles, Louisiana and their parents. So many fabulous stories. How my great-great grandmother ran (with an iron-fist) her family and a business in Lebanon, at a time when it was even more uncommon in the Middle East than it is today. How my great-grandfather moved to the US ahead of his wife and son, eventually able to get them here only to have, after the birth of four daughters, his wife die and leave him to raise them. How Aunt Ann (Joncille’s mother) ran a store and raised a family by herself for most of her life, having divorced in the 30s and 40s, long before it was commonly acceptable to do so. How my Aunt Bea waited until she was 40 to marry, having finally found – in her words – a man both intelligent and dumb enough to spend her life with. And my, oh, my, how the four girls bickered!
Again, I wish I could be here when nana arrives. I know it’s because of this fabulous, strong, independent blood running through my veins that I am able to do all the things I’ve done, from having Nicky when I was so young to building a successful career to taking this road trip by myself. It’s also thanks to the fabulous family I have on all sides supporting me mentally and physically, especially my mom with Nick – from the moment he was born through forever.
I know that my fierce independence isn’t always a good thing, and that my being away has not been easy on some people back home. I hate that some feel I’ve abandoned them – that’s the last thing I intended. I honestly didn’t think I’d be missed that much. As I’ve said, part of my reason for taking to the road was as a form of denial that there was no longer someone (basically my son) at home who needed me. And the fact that now I’m being told I should be home anyway, frankly, makes me angry.
I am sorry I am not physically in Massachusetts to provide the in-person emotional, financial and physical (mainly transportation) support some expect of me. I am doing my best to do that remotely and apologize for the anxiety this has caused some and the burden that’s fallen to others. But I have not abandoned anyone. I am available practically 24/7 by phone, text, e-mail, facebook – even this blog! (Yes: if you’re really wondering where I am or how I’m doing, there’s even a web site devoted to it!) And there’s a concrete end date, which I believe proves that I will, in fact, be returning (hence no abandonment). I will be home by December 10 at the latest – possibly a few days earlier.
But I am not at all sorry for going on this adventure. If I hadn’t taken this trip, I never would have gotten to sit with my cousin and 94-year-old great-aunt in a nursing home in Sugar Land Texas and hear family stories first hand. I wouldn’t have discovered that some friendships never die. I wouldn’t have known that some of the most beautiful places are where you’d least expect to find them. I wouldn’t have been with my dear friends as they received exciting news. I wouldn’t have discovered the answer to ‘what if’ and made precious new friends. I wouldn’t have seen the concert of the lifetime with two of my best girlfriends. I wouldn’t have been able to coach some of my friends through difficult times in person. I wouldn’t have realized that I can actually write a movie. I wouldn’t have had serious quality time with family and friends, new and old. I wouldn’t have known that every little town has a story just waiting to be told – you only have to listen.
My days on the road are winding down. If I honestly believed I was desperately need at home, if Nick called and asked me to return, I would be there in a heartbeat, or at least as quickly as Holly (my car) could get me there. Until then, I am going to continue to follow my itinerary, through Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, down through Florida and back up the east coast. I’m going to spend Thanksgiving in Florida with my family while Nick celebrates in London with Alivia, and I promise: I will be home for Christmas – before even, as we must dig out the decorations, bake, get a tree and have Nick place the first ornament on its branches…