This is not the trip you are dreaming of – a tropical location with frozen cocktails. Rather, this is about taking the trip that you have put off or simply not had the time for, an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones. Last July the kids and I packed up to visit my mother’s family in Kentucky – a trip that was long overdue. Thankfully, I was following a New Year’s Resolution to visit and reconnect with aging family members. We are all busy – life moves at breakneck speed and the six hour drive was hard to schedule. The truth is, I don’t even remember what we were so busy doing, but I will never forget that visit.
One year later, everything has changed. Last year we visited my great-aunt in her childhood home – the home my great-grandparents ordered in the 1930’s from a Sears Roebuck catalog. A house that has always been a beacon, a solid place in my life that was unfaltering. Having moved a lot as a young child (I attended a different school for Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade) and moving several times as an adult – this house gave me a sense of permanence; a sense of place.
We also enjoyed an afternoon with my mother’s cousin, Mark, learning about my great-grandfather (a World War I hero in France), visiting his log cabin by the creek, and teaching the kids to shoot BB guns. It was a day of sharing the small town of my childhood memories, the Kentucky roots that are a part of my story and my children’s story. The kids ran through the beautiful bluegrass hills and soaked up the fresh air – it was glorious.
I wrote about this trip upon my return, “but the soul in that house seemed to whisper with a fierceness. A desperation not to be forgotten…” Little did I know the deep truth in those words. Today, one year later, we sold my great-grandmother’s house. My great-aunt can no longer live safely in her home and has been moved to a nursing facility – her sweet spirit is still intact, but her body and mind are failing her. This home, this fixture of my life, is no longer waiting with open arms to greet me.
And, sadly, Mark is gone. Shortly after our visit he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer – we lost him in April. The laughter and joy of last July’s visit are now only a cherished memory. A true gift. I knew even at the time that is was special – one of those magical days, watching my children’s eyes light up and the deep love their family had for them (they are the only great-grandchildren on that side of the family, so they have been adored, if even from a distance). I had no idea that my next visits to this small town of my roots would be to attend a funeral and begin the process of cleaning out my great-grandmother’s home. This place has changed – the soul and spirit now gone from the little town I could always return to.
I am not always a fan of New Year’s Resolutions (they can be so easily dismissed), but I am grateful I listened to my heart and took that trip. I was able to give my children memories and connections to last a lifetime.
While this may seem terribly sad and depressing, it’s not. The wonderful news is I took the trip, I followed my heart and that gives me a deep sense of peace as I have faced the difficulties of this year.
I encourage you:
- Take the trip (there is never a convenient or perfect time, just do it)
- Reconnect with loved ones
- Give your children an opportunity to learn their story (you might just learn more about your own story too)