From Asheville, we headed back to South Carolina for a huge family get together. It's the first time this many of us have been together in one place at one time since 2001. The get together was Sunday, so let's back up a bit!
We pulled into my uncle's house late Friday night. We spent too much time at the Biltmore and then got to deal with heavy traffic and an accident on the freeway. BUT, they were awesome and held dinner for us. I had no idea how much happiness was waiting for me. The minute we pulled into the driveway, I was soooo excited. I practically ran to the door and when my foot touched the porch, I started crying. I hadn't stood on my uncle's porch in 13 years. When he opened the door, with my 10 year old cousin (whom I'd never met) standing beside him, I hardly gave my uncle a chance to say hello before I hugged him.
My aunt was holding back the dogs and she started crying....We just stood there hugging and crying and staring at each other! The years melted away and yet all of a sudden, I felt robbed. I had missed out on so very much. My family left SC in 1995 and then they moved to MA a year or two later. I have only seen all of them twice since then (the last time being in 2001). Before we left SC, they were some of the people I was closest to. When I came back for visits before they went to MA, they continued to play a big role in my life.
Their older boys came downstairs and it's a good thing there is FB otherwise I would have completely lost it when young MEN walked in...I said, "Well, I guess I can't squeeze your cheeks anymore!!!!" And Josh said, "We were just talking earlier about how it would be weird that you would be shorter than us this time. We never thought we'd be taller than you!" I laughed, but my chin was quivering!
We ate burgers, Grandma's macaroni and cheese, beans, and chips. We played Pictionary. We swapped stories of our favorite memories. And I think we all (at least the adults) marveled that we were finally together again.
I didn't take a single picture that night...I regret that. I don't know who won the game. In the middle of it, my cousins Zach and Quinn came over with one of their friends....And I realized, all these boys (they range from 18-20) get to do THIS all the time. Once again...I sat there in SHEER happiness.
We all stayed up as late as we possibly could. Then we headed over to my aunt's house where we were going to be sleeping.
We had more teary hellos to say over there. My aunt and uncle had been at a Christmas party with their youngest sons (who are 18). We stayed up even later chatting with each of them, before finally saying goodnight.
The next few days passed in a blur of sleeping in, hanging out, playing a million rounds of Pictionary until WAY too late (hence the sleeping in), and getting to know each other all over again.
I have soooo much I could say about all of this and about the way that some things don't change. The cousins who were babies and little boys the last time I saw them, may be men now, but we hit it off just like old times.
For now, let's chat about Sunday and the big Syrian Feast!
I had stayed at my uncle and aunt's the night before. My aunt and I got up and shared coffee. This was the first we'd ever shared. It was Christmas time, so she taught me about the magic that is putting eggnog into your coffee! We talked and talked and talked and her youngest son listened and put his two cents in every now and then. I think my uncle had already left for his sister's house (where the feast was held) because they were doing attifs for breakfast over there. We eventually got ourselves together and joined them!
If you're not confused already....My Mom has four sisters and one brother. There are 21 cousins. The oldest two cousins have gotten married and have five children between them. Like I said earlier, we were only missing 4 of the "original" group. So....After attifs and the rest of the crew getting there, we started a grape leaf assembly line.
My uncle snapped this one while we were waiting for the scoopers to get ahead of the rollers.
Some of us were in it for the long haul. We rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled until we ran out of leaves.
I love this picture....It describes the organized chaos of that many people under one roof perfectly!
When we finished up in the kitchen, I wandered around to talk pictures of the rest of us! My uncles, two of my cousins, and Jordan (who is like a brother to the my cousin in the purple) were playing Ticket to Ride.
We did A LOT of this!!!!
Right before the food was ready, we headed out to the deck to get a picture of the cousins. We are lined up from oldest (my cousin in the scarf) to youngest. In the 1950's a young woman and a man met at an Esso station on Long Island. Despite his parents' wishes, they married. Through many ups and downs, they raised 6 kids. 60 years later, their legacy lives on! It may be difficult to get that many people with their eyes open at the same time, but I think we did it!!!!
My Mom took pictures throughout the whole thing and I'm so glad she did!!!! I'm only including one of the goofs. Notice my cousin with the phone in his hand? Well...He was sooo embarrassed that he was still in his pj pants for this picture. When a picture was announced he looked down and then said, "Oh wait! I'm tall! I'll be in the back!" Then he realized that as one of the youngest, he'd be right in the front! (lol!!!!) (Confession, I never did make it out of my comfy clothes or into the shower before we got going that day....)
Oh, and yes...Out of 21 cousins, there really are only 6 girls. I've never minded being outnumbered one bit!
My oldest cousin's Dad along with her youngest!
I love this shot....I never thought Josh would be one of the tallest!
After dinner, we got introduced to Concept(s?)!!!! Some of us caught right on and others of us needed a bit of help! It was fun! In fact....We enjoyed it so much, that we almost made a midnight run to buy it the very next night!
Some of us settled in for tv, crocheting, and relaxing.
She found this little dancing/singing dog toy and was totally entranced by it! She didn't even realize I was taking her picture!
Before the night was over, my uncle taught my sister (and brother) how to make halawad'ijibon!!! It was my Ghiddu's specialty and my uncle has taken it over.
Meanwhile, we paired up for another game of Pictionary which got broken up and new pairs were made when some of us had to leave.
I think my Aunt Claudia snapped this one of her son playing with my oldest cousin's middle son!
Oldest to youngest, minus one! (My Mom is the youngest.)
My cousin Mary and I right before she had to leave. I only ended up being able to see her for this day during our trip. I was sorry that it worked out that way, but it was really great to be together when we were!!!!
Back to the grindstone...
Zach joined my sister for round two (she taught him this time). It takes a lot of dessert for that many people!!!! They were dancing and singing and we all found ourselves popping in there to find out what all the fun in the kitchen was about!
These two are just 5 days apart in age!!! This picture was taken on our last night together and even though they'd only met once when they were 3 years old, you'd never know it to watch them together!
So...That's how you make up for way too many years of not seeing each other. The Syrian Feast was a big hit and I'm so very glad that it pulled us back for a visit!!!!
Next time, I'll be sharing more pictures from this leg of a trip. I don't know how to make this more enjoyable for all of you! This is the kind of thing that I want to leave for US, so please excuse me for it if it's bugging you. :)