Departure from the Carolinas

On the flight back to Orange County, leaving behind family in more than one way.

We left a bundle of new found relatives, folks from Jamesville, North Carolina and the surrounding burbs, to get back to their daily routine in tears; any of them I’ll probably not see again unless they venture out west. We left Pop, Melanie, Steph, Craig, and their gang at church this morning while we drove off in our rental micro-van to the airport. And Tripp and Karen took the keys from Mom and, as we taxied, were driving toward the coast to celebrate their first anniversary, then they’ll return to their respective homes, Michigan and Chicago.

It’s odd first of all going to an event like that. Essentially it’s like a college party, where you show up, you only know the people you brought, and perhaps the people who called to tell you about it. The first thing you do is look for the beer and a comfortable protected spot to use as home base and then you proceed to make idle chat with a whole bundle of folks who you may or may not run into again, but perhaps you’ll see them later on in the party, so your amiable. The only difference is everyone is a lot older, there isn’t any ping pong, and you’d best stay away from any attractive ladies – this is a Family Reunion. Fortunately this BBQ didn’t turn out anything like how I’d internally predicted it to.

The first part of my plan was on target, we arrived and looked for the beer, and really didn’t know anyone but Pop, but as the party went on our relatives were a bundle of warm, welcoming, good natured people. They might not have been Californians, though Andrew might hold that against them and for the most part that made it even easier to get along with, but they were decent human beings that apparently loved us just as much as they’d love any of their own children. The made jokes and more importantly could roll with ours, played football, cooked and ate food like no other, loved cats, were eager to share their tales and stories, and truly their welcome mats meant come on it, for real. I couldn’t have imagined it. Thus, when we left, there were tears in the eyes of our hosts, hearty hugs and hand shakes, and a real commitment from a good many of them, to keep in contact via emails or visits. I think some of us Californian folk would even consider moving there.

The life style was mellow, slow, comfortable. Perhaps this was just a show, perhaps there are uptight people everywhere in the world and we just so happened to have a weekend party without any of them showing up, or letting loose, but if that’s not the case, North Carolina is one of the most relaxed places in the world. … and remember just because they talk slow, doesn’t mean they are….

The night before we left.. last night, Anna some sort of second cousin removed and then re-added in, an 18 year old relative who’s just graduated and going to North Carolina State, took a couple of us out, kind of. After dinner we were antsy, we wanted to carouse, see, hear, do something.. anything to prevent sitting in the hotel room till we passed out. So she generously offered to take us about. After much harassment of things and places in the area I think she became frustrated with her perceived inability to ‘show us a good time’ in her home town. I didn’t mind, I had a great time just driving about Jamesville and such watching the dark fields and lit-up houses go by. One particular stop was upon the “Screaming Bridge,” a haunted bridge that, if you stopped up on it you could hear the screams of the woman who was hung off of it. I heard no screams but my own in an attempt to rile up the car a little, followed by pounding on the roof and driver’s window.. In any case – just like Mission Viejo, or any other home town – we perceive them as boring as we grow up there and then come to learn later that they’re built and filled with character and thrills. Well, maybe not the thrills, but certainly character and this North Carolina had it for sure.

With a quick stop at Bojangles in the morning for breakfast with Anna and her mom and then to the church to see everyone off, we drove from Jamesville to the airport in a hot and muggy environment and I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing it is that thus far every place I’ve visited on this earth has the exact same people living there. People who love and are loved, people who welcome, people who laugh, people who forget about what they’re bad at, people with compassion, and most of all, people who smile. Everyone, no matter who their master, and who their enemy, smiles and it’s great to know I’ve got kin in North Carolina who are damn good at it.