There has been so much texture in my life of late. After my silent retreat, I was home a few days before driving to Savannah to join my sister there. The motivation of our visit was our family reunion, and the experience was that – and more.
Savannah is a trip “home” for me. Yes, I feel here is “home” and down there is also “home.” I had a chance to reflect on what it meant to be in that home with family – in several aspects: my nuclear childhood family, extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins, childhood church family, college family, and new friends family. It was a comparison of families that I was born into and the ones I have chosen. Both contribute to the textures of my life, and this Savannah trip was a sort of microcosm of it all.
Those of you who are 40 and over will understand how special it is to spend time with someone who knew you in childhood and shared some of your growing up. On this trip, my sister and I were blessed with time with a childhood church friend. We grew up in a church family in which the roots go back to at least the mid-1700s. We went to church every Sunday in a church building that was completed in 1769, one replete with wavery glass in the windows and uneven-width boards making up the ceiling. Our families had known each other for generations. And here we sat in Savannah, about 30 miles from that church some 40 years later, talking about our families and experiences as children and teenagers, sharing stories and memories in the context of people who had moved away and were in the middle or later part of our lives.
Then add our family reunion that weekend at the social hall of that very church. This reunion was started by three siblings in the year 1900. My guess was that they set it on the Saturday before the third Sunday because that was a time in which the crops were coming in (our ancestors were farmers), and a picnic lunch would have an abundance of fresh food. I also found out that it was the Sunday that the circuit-riding preacher wouldn’t be at church, so there was a little less, what . . . pressure? . . . for church the next day. Though I’m sure that having a family reunion the day before wouldn’t be an excuse for missing church.
Our reunion continues the tradition of churning ice cream for the afternoon treat after dinner (which in the South years ago and even sometimes now was or is the name for the mid-day meal). I can understand what a treat it was to have ice cream on a hot July day 100 years ago. Heck, I even saw a young cousin’s eyes light up this year when she found out there’d be ice cream later.
Continuing the visit to the past, my sister reconnected with a college friend, and we all had dinner (the evening version) in Savannah the night before I left. Since my sister and I attended the same college, I knew her friend back then, and it was a delight to catch up with her “now” life.
Every now and then I’m struck with how surreal it is to be in my 50s and to know that my high school and college days were so long ago. But when we talk about those days, I swear, I can go straight back to them and feel the same feelings and see the same sights. It’s as if the past is a real place, one I can visit, one I actually leave this “now” place to go see.
And then weave today’s technology into this trip. The internet adds a new dimension to our lives. Because of Facebook, my sister and I met up with this childhood church friend and her husband and her daughter and her wife and their children. Because of Facebook, we had dinner with my sister’s college friend. And because of email, several cousins who wouldn’t have been at the family reunion made it a priority to be there. And I got to see all of these people in one trip “home.”
I’m struck with how much I enjoy connection with the people of my past. They’re also people of my present. We are those children who grew up together, those teenagers who went off to college, while also being the middle-aged (and older) people we are today.
We are our past and present. That past is in our fabric just as much as our present is.
So much texture on this Savannah trip. It made me look more closely at my roots, how they make me who I am now, the now person who has experienced a shift but who is also that little Salzburg Lutheran girl who went to Ebenezer every Sunday to church.
How blessed I am to be both – and so much more.