My Dad grew up in Arkansas, and we still have lots of family there, including Mom and Dad, who retired there after many, many lifetime moves.
Many of my cousins have remained in Arkansas, but a few have ventured to surrounding states – including Texas and Oklahoma. My youngest cousin lives in the Dallas area; and while we don’t see each other as often as I’d like, we know we can call on each other without question to lend a helping hand, plan a last minute lunch, or update each other on our kid’s sporting events.
Recently, we received an invitation from my cousin’s daughter to attend her outdoor wedding at a lodging area in Oklahoma. Mulling over the invitation, a few thoughts popped into my head:
Remind me again – would this be my second cousin, or my cousin once removed?
Outdoor? In Oklahoma? In JULY?
I wonder if Jack has any games that weekend?
You know, that will be a fun celebration, and we should go.
Luck would have it, baseball was on hiatus; so we made plans to meet up with my parents, booked the hotel room in nearby Ardmore, and drove up for a quick weekend trip.
Crossing the Red River into Oklahoma is a big deal. It signals our entry into ‘enemy territory:’ we Longhorns have a heated annual football rivalry with the Sooners, one of the biggest in college football. Clearly, we had to check our orange-blooded passions at the state line (despite Jack’s insistence on wearing his UT football jersey, drawing a number of stares that day).
The fact is, we were there for family. Most of Dad’s siblings were there; a few of my cousins (and their children) attended. We laughed until our bellies hurt; and we reminded a younger generation just how fun it is to make such great memories, when we make the effort. Jack and Shannon heard treasured “remember when…” stories, and they were introduced through memories to family who couldn’t join us. As I left, I made a mental note to myself to ‘cross the border’ that separates me from family members who live farther away. Some of that border is geographic, but some of it is a border I’ve put up myself….and those borders can be erased with more communication (and not just the social media kind!)
I loved the sign that welcomed us to the wedding. It said more about building community in my own family than I could in any blog post:
Tell me – how do you build community within your extended family, when family members are spread across the country (or the world)?