|Mum and Grandpa
I sat on the tarmac waiting… waiting..
Mum had flown up from Christchurch to where I lived in Auckland, and now we were sitting on the tarmac, in Auckland, waiting. Waiting for the big huge trip to Missouri to begin.
As we waited we talked about the trip we were about to take (if the plane ever took off). We were about to meet about 80 relatives that we never even knew we had! What would they be like? We’d seen photos, but what does a photo really tell you? We knew they’d talk funny and we knew they’d think we talked funny too, that was a given.
We were excited but nervous, full of anticipation and really wanting to get this god damn plane on its way!
That flight was delayed for 5 hours. Five freaking hours!!! Unbelievable! It had a domino effect on all of our flights and stole a day from our holiday forcing us to overnight in LA.
But we finally got to Springfield Missouri. Middle America, where the big hay bales are, and the Amish, Brad Pitt’s home town and the closest airport to where my family lived.
We were met at the airport by Grandpa and Jane, who we’d met, but also Aunty Julie and her kids, Chris and Josh – my cousins!
It was pretty surreal.
We were driven to the farm in pick up trucks with country music playing on the radio. (During the month we were there, I tried to find other radio stations but they all played the same music, I learned to like it, a little.) We passed other farms full of hay bales and silos on the way. We saw little houses dressed up in red white and blue for the upcoming 4th of July weekend celebrations. There were American flags everywhere. This is middle America, they bleed red, white and blue here. Coming from a country with more cultural cringe than sheep, it was a bit different.
The house was built out of a trailer hooked up to a barn type garage and then rooms built on and up from there – it was amazing.how it was done. Complete with second story and swimming pool.
Grandpa and Jane’s house was in the middle with Aunty Julie and her family living in a house to the right on the same property and Uncle Jimmy and his son, also on the same property but to the left. With family so close by all the time, there is a festive family gathering feel to every day. It was quite amazing how each night Grandpa and Jane’s house was filled with everyone for dinner. Each night was full of family and food and laughter – so much laughter.
What amazed me about this family is how they immediately felt like family and not the strangers they had been up till so recently. I finally understood cliches like “blood is thicker than water”. It never felt weird, it felt like coming home.
|Me and Grandpa
We also got to visit my Great Uncle Warren. He was in hospital when we went to meet him. What I remember most about that first meeting were his blue eyes. Amazing blue eyes. It’s a family trait from that side of the family that my mum inherited. I didn’t. But anyway, back to Uncle Warren’s eyes, amazing and deep with such warmth and love, even from what turned out to be his death bed.
Going to a funeral in America was not on my itinerary. I sat next to my mum and my grandfather as we said goodbye to Uncle Warren. That’s the first and only time I felt out of place. I felt too new and like a bit of a novelty and like I shouldn’t have been there. But there I was, at a funeral, saying goodbye to someone I had just met.
|Great Grandma Hannah with her Eleven children, including my Grandpa and Uncle Warren.
They do funerals differently in the States. They have the wake first. So there is a big gathering and food and laughter and togetherness before the ceremony. Which is nice. During the ceremony there are professional singers singing the hymns, not the mumbled off-pitch warblings of amazing grace that funerals back home are well known for. I focused on the interesting cultural differences and tried not to cry. Back at the farm I told drunk jokes about a bear and made everyone laugh.
We were there for the 4th of July weekend. It was fantastic! We went to a fair and ate corn dogs. We went to a parade and watched my second cousin walk in the parade with a duck. There was also a goat wearing red white and blue ribbons and kids in go-karts and tractors. All with ribbons and flags.
Then that night we had a BBQ and set off fireworks.
|Watching the 4th of July Parade from Grandpa’s pick up truck.
We saw lots of things and did lots of things and I could ramble on about them for many a paragraph. We went to Graceland, we saw real Amish people doing real Amish things, we went to a theme park, we ate frogs legs caught fresh from the lake, we shopped at Walmart, I taught my new family how to make a black russian, we made our own root beer, we ate bean dip and corn bread, we saw Brad Pitt’s brother. And we spent lots of money on so much stuff. We did not want to say goodbye.
But what I remember most was the dinner times around the table at Grandpa and Jane’s house, in the middle of the farm, with everybody there, talking and laughing. Family.
Have you missed the first parts of the story? Catch up here:
Click Here for The Search for Grandpa: Part One
Click here for The Search for Grandpa: Part Two
Click here for The Search for Grandpa: Part Three.