We just returned from a wonderful trip halfway across the country and back over the course of a week! I am not going to bore with an insanely long post, so I am breaking it up over the next few days. We were gone from Tuesday to Tuesday, for reference. The posts will be along the lines of:
Volume 1 - Let's Get the Hard Stuff Over First
Volume 2 - Iowa Family Time
Volume 3 - St Louis
Today I'm writing about our time in Iowa. A little history is that Anny's mother was born and raised in Iowa. We've gone back a couple of times since we've been married. Twice for weddings, once purely for a reunion and twice more for memorial services. Our trip last week was planned as reunion, but also turned into a time of remembrance with a memorial service on Saturday.
The family is large and great fun to be around. I began to write out a list of who was there, but it's incredibly long. Let me just say that the family extends across our country, and into Australia. A lot of the family lives in Iowa, though, and sees each other fairly often. We get to see them on occasion. There are cousins, spouses, aunts and uncles, and a whole gaggle of children from the ages of nine months to ten years, including two sets of twins.
The thing that hit me, right off of the bat, is that Abby melded into the group of strangers-to-her incredibly quickly. Within moments of arriving she had already laid claim to the swings, and begun to learn names. The last time that Abby had seen anyone in the group (aside from Jim and Carol, my In Laws) was two years ago, when she was six weeks old. We did do some preliminary work with Abby a few weeks ago - we began talking about the family members, and showing her pictures of the children in an effort to get her comfortable. The reality is that pictures are simply pictures - they did not show personality, voice or mannerisms - but I can assure you that it helped!
On Saturday we spent a good deal of the day focused on the past. Anny's grandmother passed away this spring, and since the family was coming together this summer, it was decided that the memorial service would wait until we were all together. Anny's "Aunt" Robyn and her husband John even traveled from Australia! The service was at the church that Carol grew up in, which was not near the family "homestead" so part of the day was spent traveling. We made sure to find a Starbucks on the way! We arrived early enough for the ladies of the church to serve lunch to the family.
The service was very nice, though very short. I learned a lot about the life of Grandma Greenfield, but only between trying to keep Abby quiet. At one point, the only reason Abby was talking was to huff and say "NO QUIET!" This typically happened during quiet times, of course. Paul had come prepared, but Abby tired quickly of every toy and book presented to her. Oh well. It appears that nobody minded.
Following the service, we were once again treated to goodies by the ladies of the church. It's part of their makeup to be completely hospitable. If I'm not mistaken, it was the same ladies who provided goodies for us two years ago when we gathered to remember Anny's grandfather.
Following the service we all gathered back at The Timber (the property owned by Anny's Aunt and Uncle with two houses on it.) for dinner and some visiting with each other. The children did absolutely anything they wanted, from swinging to bubbles, and the adults had a great time just spending time together. It was a perfect evening to be outside and with good people and good conversation. Following dinner the Aunts drove around the Timber to spread grandma's ashes. It really seemed to bring closure for everyone in a very productive way. It was much more neat than weird, to be honest. (My grandmother and her mother are still waiting to be spread...)
While our time was short in Iowa, it was really great to be with the larger family. I have this fantasy that the next time we get everyone together I want everyone to bring their wedding albums. I want us to have an intentional way to talk about the good things that have happened for everyone, and I realized on the way home (the looong way home) that I have never actually heard how Jim and Carol met, much less anything about the way that others met, or the special days that they were married. I'm a dork, but I think it would be fun...
(A whole lot more happened in Iowa, but I don't want this post to take days to read! The next post will be on our time in St Louis, which was just as short but even more awesome! Honestly, folks, the whole trip was incredible!)