“Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children . . .”
In my last blog post, “There's Something Magical About Going Home,” I promised to share a few stories and pictures from my recent trip to Bristol, Rhode Island. Today’s post, “Going Home Part II—Family” tells the best part of the story. Perhaps I should have saved it for last, but I couldn’t wait to share the smiles.
When it puts its best face forward, family gives us a glimpse of what heaven is going to be like. Leisurely meals around the table, familiar stories, and lots of hugs and laughter. Unfortunately, these extended family events are becoming more and more rare, especially now that our daughters are married and have begun families of their own. When the planets align, the earth tilts perfectly on its axis, and everyone’s busy schedules overlap, we occasionally manage to gather in one place. Most of the time, however, we visit in smaller groups.
My recent trip to Rhode Island was uniquely special, because four generations of women from my immediate family met in my hometown—my mom, myself, my daughters, and my granddaughters.
Four generations, ranging in age from 72 to 1.
In addition to the miracle of gathering with my immediate family, my mom and her two cousins, daughters of three siblings who sailed from the Azores with their mother in 1919, also had opportunities to visit. Now that their mothers have passed away, (the youngest died at 94-1/2 and the oldest at 98), these women have taken their places as the matriarchs of our family.
I, one generation distant, watched them with an objectivity they didn’t have. With every smile, laugh, and gesture, I saw glimpses of the women who birthed them. One cousin has her mother’s high cheekbones and soft voice. The other has her mom’s keen mind and love for learning. Watching two cousins’ hands cradle steaming cups of coffee, I noticed that they were identical. One pair of hands had traveled the world, while the other had stayed close to home, but they were similarly beautiful.
The irony that, two generations later, we again have a sailor in the family escaped no one. One day my son-in-law invited us to have lunch with him at the Officers’ Club in Newport. Driving through the gates of the base transported my mother back to a younger time when life was simple and romance blossomed.
“Your father took me here once,” she said. Her eyes crinkled at the memory of her handsome sailor. “Some nights he’d have to walk back to base after he took me home—or hitchhike, because we’d talked for so long he missed the last bus. What in the world did we talk about?”
Showing my hometown to my children, son-in-law, and grandchildren gave me the opportunity to put flesh on the bones of my life. When they saw the spiral staircase in the Rogers Free Library, they understood why I spent more time there than anywhere else. When they stood at the stone wall that encircles Bristol Harbor, they knew why it was my favorite place to write and think. When they rested in the shade of the tree-lined streets, smelled the salty sea air, and watched the sailboats skim across the bay, they understood why my eyes light up whenever anyone mentions Rhode Island.
Visiting my hometown helps my family understand me. Visiting my hometown also helps me understand me. Remembering the sunny landscape covered in three feet of snow reminds me why I hate cold and love the South. Driving by the 864-foot home where our family of five lived explains why I’m so excited about having a bedroom big enough to fit a bed, a dresser, and a chair. Walking past the little apartment where my Granny lived reinforces my determination to be a wonderful grandmother just like she was.
We don’t get to choose our family, and not every relationship within the circle is a happy one. Rose-colored glasses aside, families can be our greatest source of joy or our greatest source of pain. It’s my prayer today that whatever side of the pendulum you’re on, you’ll ask God to show you how to be the best family member you can be, for his glory.
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children” (Pro. 13:22).