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.

Touch-down.

Roots.

Germany beat Argentina and they advance into the semifinals, Ukrane goes home.

Today we put Pop in the car, got some cheese biscuts and sausage from the local BBQ joint and got a quick tour of the land of our kin in North Carolina.

We drove past the Jamesville cemetary, saw some Mizells and a Mizelle. Pop told us that there was another Mizell clan when he was growing up. I can only imagine that they were ruffians, trouble makers who managed to move to Mexico and start a new life under the psudonym of Sanchez.
Past a heap of ready corn, nearing tobaco, and new cotton fields, Pop narrated to us shorts of relatives, friends, and events from his childhood and subsequent returns home. “Down that lane on at the end of that field was the local country store, that fella was so nice…. Right there at the corner of that corn field, this place was once all trees and the house was tucked away into them…That’s where I was born… This house use to be the best in the county. This is the first house that had gas lighting. …Mom grew up in this house.” Mom drove slowly and irratically as all of us passengers were half enthraled with the stores and history of the area and half scared Mom would drive into a corn field because she thought Pop wanted to stop there. Finally we turned right past a group of goats and found an old drive wih a farmer working the land and an old house in front of a series of barns and such. We were interested in the house. Unfortunatly I can’t remember the story – the history – but it was there. Perhaps I’ll add later.

The house was old. Wooden. Tin roof. Brick fireplaces on both sides. A wrap around portch. Boarded up windows. Lightening Rods. Surrounded by damn green grass and fields of cotton and tobacco. ……

We returned to sisters where we set up tents, tables, and chairs for the evenings dinning and socializing in the damp heat of the east coast. I don’t sweat this much in Arizona – that sweet tea is fantastic for breaking the heat. A beer, traditional football game, and one injury later (to Steve, a team mate of mine) we were ready for a shower, grace, and burgers and beans. I was sedated and calm. A Carolina storm rolled in, the sun dimmed and disappeared, and the bats followed the lightening bugs into the evening air. It was pleasant. Andrew and Megan got a mason jar from Grant and we caught a few buggs and watched them in captivity. Andrew taught the kitten to hunt them and I enjoyed some time in the hammock. What day is it? It doesn’t matter. It’s Holiday. Tripp left to get Karen from the airport and we hitched a ride back to the hotel to await tomorrow’s meals.

Family on the Carolina Coast..

It’s the first time I’ve been to the East Coast, it’s the first time I’ve been to North Carolina, it’s the first time I’ve meet the larger part of my Dad’s extended family.

Pop, Dad’s dad, moved to California leaving his mom and three younger sisters in North Carolina. Pop regularly visits this coast and his sisters via the 40 and his 50 food motor home (roughly), alas we never ‘made it out.’ I suppose it’s tough enough to manage a family of six getting about town, to move them 3000 miles east for a week would be … a challenge and so for a long time I wouldn’t know much beyond the family that showed up to Pops for Thanksgiving and Easter dinner and street football games. A year and a half ago Dad died. Pop was making his drive again and told us this would perhaps be his last time driving the 15 day trek. His birthday is this weekend. Dad’s siblings were going to be there. This time there was noreason it couldn’t be easy. Mom asked all the brothers, gave us the dates, and without a hitch … or so I think, we had tickets to the coast and were on our way, I was going to get to the East Coast and meet a bundle of folks who knew Dad and Pop that I’d never met. neat.

Plane flights are plane flights. My flight to Ecuador didn’t feel any different than my flight to St. Louis and until we really hit wall of heated moisture in the air outside the baggage claim doors this time, I hadn’t yet put myself into Virginia and onto the east coast. Here there is green, there are trees, there is moisture flowing free from the sky, free in the Air! We found our white rental mini-van and soon after discovered that just because it has 6 seats doesn’t mean they’re built for people. Even my legs were pushed against the seat in front of me. Ugh. Fortunately we only had to drive 2 hours to the true coast to touch the water and then another 2 to Jamesville, NC 27846, where Pop and the family were already eating and drinking and smiling.

To the coast we drove. The water was warm, the sand interestingly granular and large, and the waves horribly non-existent. East coast waves, as I’ve been informed before and ten again today, only occur from hurricanes and, new to me, from Nor-Easters. Neither of which were present today. But there was sand and shore and I was indeed on the East Coast, cool. One more tick off my national summer tour. As we drove inland, away from the coast, we went over miles of bridge, which was cool, passed signs warning of Alligators, Bears, and Fox, which was interesting, and a whole lot of crops of Corn, which was .. well different. Little did I know I’d be eating some of that corn a little while later and it would be Gooooooo-oood, I mean good! Grant was driving by now and we meandered about the small roads, past a school and a church and houses all around and finally found Pops motor home. Here we go.

There he was outside waiting as a Pop should, resolute but independent enough that we’d quickly greet him before he had to wait too long. This neighborhood was quaint. It had a bold character to it. The lawns were green and soft, the trees years outside of their adolescence, the yard fence free and full of Fourth of July decor. Reminding me of another wholesome family event, we emptied out of the cramp micro-van, talking with Pop and beginning the indroduction to relatives. There weren’t too many, but more than I could remember the names of at that instant. As it is Pop’s three sisters and their families were fairly represented and all presented themselves at various points through the evening. We walked through the back yard of the first house to see the house that Pop grew up in and his mother had lived until she died, then just a couple of house up the street and across was another sisters house. Filled with chairs and tables this was the dinning hall. Pleasant with bird feeders and delicately placed nic-knacks. the house had that charm about it… the one that we try to repeat on the west coast but only find by shopping at target and k-mart. This charm was genuine, a true collection of novelties and toys over the ages. One particular squirrel feeder was a wooden piece secured to a tree with a stool and a pike upon which an ear of corn was placed. According to the residents, squirrels actually sit down and enjoy the corn – remarkable. There were white window trimmings and hand dipped candles along side an easy chair and broadband Internet connection. Against my previous notions – as lacking as they were – this place was welcoming, it was family, it was home. There were hugs all around, smiles from everyone, and one hell of a dinner. We were even introduced to a neighbor as “Kin Folk,” and that just made me feel all warm. Tonight we’re at the Days Inn – using their Wi-Fi – and tomorrow I look forward to getting another glimpse of N. Carolina and family, and evenings activities which include but are not limited to a good ole fashioned ‘cook out.’