Some of my fondest childhood memories were at the Blue Ridge Assembly in the Blue Ridge Mountains. My mother, father, and twin brother and I would vacation there in the summer. We stayed in a cabin with my mother’s sister and her husband, my most favorite uncle. I can still remember the smell of the cabin. The nights were cold in the mountains even in the middle of summer so the cabin smelled of the fireplace. Next to the cabin was a stream. I would roll up my pants and walk through the stream picking up stones. The water was ice cold and I could put my lips to it and slurp up the water and still remember how good it tasted. The main building had afternoon arts and crafts that my brother and I would attend. At dusk we would sit on the front porch of the main hall in the rocking chairs and look out over the mountains. Pinterest has a wonderful picture of what I saw (Can I put Pinterest pictures on my blog? I’m not sure but I will try and if told to take it down I will)
My uncle and I had a special bond. I looked forward to seeing him most. He took me hiking every day. There were three different trails and he left it up to me which one we would choose. Hiking with him meant we stopped many times along the way for him to tell me the name of each plant, root, flower and tree. I have always been fascinated by these things. My uncle was a culinary genius and could pick a plant off a pathway and add it to a dish, make tea out of it, and it was always wonderful. He and I hiked to the top of High Windy mountain and sat on a rock that looked out over the mountains. It was breathtaking. Even as a yong child I KNEW what breathtaking was in nature.
I loved my uncle’s calm nature. I loved the nickname he had for me. He was one of my favorite people. I loved everything about him from his beard to his salt and pepper hair. I loved how he loved animals and nature just like I did.
One summer we traveled from our home in Florida to Maine to see the family farm in my mother’s side of the family. My mother’s father had 11 siblings and their farm is still standing to this day. There are roads and schools and other things named after my mother’s father’s side of the family up in Maine. We spent two weeks going to Maine by car and camped all the way there. We stopped in New York and rode on the subway. We stopped in Washington DC and saw all of the monuments. My uncle was very patient with me. He was loving and kind. I just remember little comments he would make that made me feel special. Made me feel noticed. When we got to Maine, all I can remember were the rock fences and the lobster. He entertained us on the long trip home.
Other than our summer vacations my parents and brother and I went to my aunt and uncle’s house every year for Thanksgiving. Each year, from when I was a little girl,we have the obligatory Thanksgiving Day table picture. Each of us had our own spot. My nana came, my uncles mother came, my cousins were there. It was tradition. Thanksgiving was always my favorite day of the year because I got to go and see my uncle. He had an herb garden and would always take the time to show me each herb, twist them around his finger tips and have me smell them. I would sample each herb. After dinner he always took us on a tractor ride. Sometimes I got to sit on his lap and drive.
My aunt and uncle had their first child when I was 8. I fell in love with him immediately and that made Thanksgiving even more exciting because I got to be with my baby cousin. At 8 years old I held him as a newborn and knew I wanted more than anything to be a mother one day. He and I always had a special bond too. I can’t really describe it in words other than I loved him from the bottom of my heart since the day he was born. It’s funny how just one day a year, every year, a person can develop such a bond.
They had a beautiful two story house with a porch swing and rocking chairs. My uncle smoked his pipe there and I absolutely loved the smell of it. He would pack it and light it and I would sit as close as possible to pick up the fragrance.
When I was diagnosed with my muscle disease I just couldn’t make the 2 hour trip to their house for Thanksgiving. So that year, we met half way at my childhood home, which my brother bought from my mother, and we all celebrated there. I thought it just wouldn’t be the same, not being at my uncles house. Ends up, it wasn’t the house that made it special, it was the people. I loved that Thanksgiving as much as I had all the rest. My computer is filled with pictures of all of our Thanksgivings. A few years ago when my uncle’s son had children of their own, they decided to resume Thanksgiving at their house and we had it here with my mom. My brother couldn’t break the tradition, understandably, and continued having Thanksgiving at my uncle’s house. I didn’t see my uncle after that until one last time…
I had hoped that even though my parents and brothers nolonger spoke to me that somehow my uncle and cousins would be different. They weren’t. I never heard from any of them again. I assumed my aunt being my mother’s sister would obviously choose my mother’s side. I should have assumed they all would. My mother’s clan. All lost to me. Some were easier to let go of than others. My uncle and his son still break my heart.
My mother’s uncle passed away, the one that grew up on the farm in Maine. My husband drove me to his funeral that was here in our town. My entire family was there. My uncle, aunt, kids, cousins, mom, and dad, and brother. Not one of them spoke to me and in fact as soon as the funeral was over and they saw me, every one of them left. Seeing my uncle made me feel the saddest. He always made me feel so special. Not any more.