Meals are always a big thing with my family. Growing up, seeing aunts, uncles and cousins revolved around blazing grills and ovens, rented tables and chairs and new and embarrassing old stories. Those feasts were among the things I missed the most when I pretended Christopher Newport University was more than 10 miles away from my mom’s house and flew out of Hampton Roads like a bat out of hell once I finally got a job.
In the interim, all of my little cousins and I somehow grew up. Now we’re the ones organizing those boisterous affairs. We all recently started reconnecting, so I headed down to North Carolina for Thanksgiving.
Things felt peculiar as I inched toward the state line along U.S. 13 in Suffolk. Although I’ve been as far north as Boston and as far west as Nashville recently, I haven’t been in North Carolina since the day I rode back to Richmond from Jacksonville and reclaimed my bedroom on North 33rd Street.
I thought about all the turmoil in my life that was caused by moving to North Carolina out of desperation and how it would have turned out differently had back-to-back tropical storms not peeled the roof off The Hopewell News. I thought about the catharsis I had over the past two years that reached its penultimate point when I returned to Hopewell and Petersburg two days before.
I briefly considered following U.S. 13 to Williamston and then heading down U.S. 17 to Jacksonville. What I would have done once I got there, I don’t know. I probably would have been angry with myself for wasting gas and missing dinner. Everyone else in my car wouldn’t have been too pleased either.
I’ll save that trip for some other time. It’s not really necessary beyond me really liking Wilmington and a half-promise to visit one of the former copy editors in Jacksonville.
We were at my cousin’s house for a good little while. I got to see her brother, most of her children and her one grandchild. It was good to see her doing well.
I also got to have a fairly decent talk with one of my male cousins who’s close in age to me. Things also are looking well for him, but a ‘what if?’ lingered over the dark Carolina sky.
The following day, I visited my elder sister Chanelle,* whom I haven’t seen more than a decade. I found out she existed somewhere between my eldest sister Theresa’s wedding and my dad being on his deathbed. I don’t think I need to explain the circumstances of Theresa and me not knowing we had a sister.
Anyway, I haven’t seen Chanelle in a long time because I was the little brother by several years to both of them. I went to my niece’s birthday parties when I was in high school, but that’s about it. I think the last time we chatted before our Aunt Betty gave me her phone number was when I was a freshman in college. It was nothing personal; you try to get a moody teenager to forge a relationship with a new family member.
By the time I considered contacting her again, it was too late for Theresa to tell me, and I didn’t think Aunt Betty would have it.
My niece doesn’t remember me. I met my nephew for the first time. I have another nephew coming Tuesday.
Come next week, my sisters will have three children each.
I’d rather have three shots.
Sure, I want kids at some point, but not three.
But I digress.
It was good to see everyone I saw over the past few days. It reminded me of how much family means and how I want my children to have what I had growing up: a hub of activity, hordes of cousins, tables covered with food, old and new stories.
*Not to be confused with my former roommate Shaunelle.