The older I get, the more appreciative I become of family. The more I want to know my family history, and hold closely the stories passed down. The more I want to pinpoint to whom I can attribute my dimples and my sarcasm and my love of travel.
Two years ago, I resumed a pen-palship with my dear Great Aunt Edith. Edith and my late Great Uncle Jim left an indelible mark on my childhood. Despite their living hundreds of miles away in Pittsburgh, they traveled south to Tennessee nearly every Christmas so Jim could visit his beloved sister – my Granny – and her children and grandchildren – my brother, sister and me.
Jim and Edith’s visits were like shiny tokens I could hold in my hand and turn over and over and tuck away for safekeeping. They would come and regale us with stories from their lives – lives which always seemed so full and exciting, as well as updates on other faraway family. They squeezed us with hugs, they gave us gifts I still hold dear to this day, and their laughs – both of them – were infectious.
Jim passed away a few years ago, and when I started communicating regularly again with Edith through hand-written notes, I was overjoyed. I love receiving letters from my Great Aunt and hearing her words come to life as if she’d spoken them.
To my excitement, she informed me in her most recent communication that she was planning to be in Illinois visiting her daughter, one of my dad’s first cousins. Realizing their home was an easy drive for a weekend day, we arranged to stop by for a visit. And I’m so glad we did. The hours spent catching up, sharing stories, photos and laughter were restorative and thoroughly and utterly good for the soul.