As a child, every night at bedtime, my last act before falling asleep would be to pray the well used child’s prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” At the end, asking God’s blessings on family members, I would include my parents, my sister, my two grandmothers, and a whole succession of uncles and aunts who lived elsewhere, mostly in West Virginia. It didn’t occur to me that this was different from most of the other kids I went to school with, whose grandparents lived nearby, and who went to school with cousins because uncles and aunts lived in the same town.
Summers, for me, were always special, because either we would pack up the car and drive the 2,00o or so miles across the country from Arizona to West Virginia, or someone from there would come to visit us, most often one of my mother’s sisters or my grandmother. My maternal grandmother had lived with us when I was born, and passed away when I was two years old, so my Dad’s mother became “Grandma.” I really enjoyed her visits. She only had four grandchildren, including my sister and myself, and lived in Ohio at the time, just three hours from our other two cousins, so when she came to see us, we got all her grandmotherly attention. And on those trips to West Virginia, every day was an adventure, meeting someone new and having the instant friendship and affinity develop because we were family. As an adopted child, that was particularly important to me.
That chapter of my life more or less came to an end when I graduated from college. Building my own career and life, I was no longer able to travel to West Virginia with my parents, and shortly after graduation, I moved to Texas, so I put my meager travel resources into trips that would take me home to visit my parents. Though I kept up with major family happenings through my parents, I wasn’t able to see very many family members again. Their lives, too, travelled in a different direction and over time, I just lost track of them.
Moving to Pittsburgh last summer opened up some new opportunities to reconnect. Thoughmy parents and most of their generation of aunts and uncles is gone, and in fact, only two aunts–my Dad’s sister in law and my Mom’s youngest sister, are still living, both in their eighties now, the generation of cousins to which my sister and I belong are still around, and most of them still live nearby in West Virginia. An hour and a half drive, in some cases even less than that, puts me on their doorstep. My wife and I were able to spend part of Christmas day with my aunt, and some of her family members, including a new generation of cousins I’d never met. Yesterday, I was able to connect with a member of my Dad’s family, a cousin who now lives in his family’s “home place” near Clarksburg. And in a chance encounter, I ran into a lady who knew both of my parents well. It was really nice just to spend a little time in a place that was home to my parents, and is home to their families. I felt like I was “home” in a way, too.
I borrowed the title, having read several of the “Chicken Soup” books, but I must say, I’m not much of a fan of chicken soup itself. Comfort food for me would be a nice bowl of tomato soup.