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On the Porch: The Family Visit

The Family Visit
It’s strange how most of my memories of childhood are cloudy, like I’m looking through an ever-changing fog. I strain my eyes looking for clues, then a cloud rolls in completely obscuring my view. Some days I wade into the mists and find sadness and loneliness while other days I uncover remembrances filled with a happy abandon and joy.

I have fond memories of family members long gone—people I didn’t fully appreciate or love as much as I should have. I feel the loss deeply. Not only do I miss them but now there is no one around who can answer my questions about our family’s lore.Anita Joyce on The Family Visit

Where exactly was Aunt Theda’s car accident with Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde? Did my cousins really put a sofa on the roof of Aunt Shirley’s house? (Actually, the answer to this one is yes.) Did Uncle Kenneth really forge his medical papers so he could go back to Korea to fight? (That turned out to be a fatal decision.)

All of this nostalgia made me miss my family, so I asked my mom, my Aunt Gloria and Uncle Eck to come for a visit at our mountain house in North Carolina, which we use as a vacation rental when we aren’t there. They are all in their eighties, but Aunt Gloria insists she is still in her seventies. Being the youngest with the best eyesight, Aunt Gloria was the designated driver for the entire two-day drive.  I insisted on meeting them at the interstate exit and escorting them to our house on top of the mountain because it can be a tricky drive; however, Aunt Gloria said she could do it without me. And she did, although my mom quietly confided they did take a few wrong turns.

As they arrived the rain was lightly falling, so the mist still clung to the mountain peaks. The air was fresh and cool. For this Texan, cool weather is a rare and treasured treat in August. We brought our guests to the deck straight away so they could enjoy the views and the mountain breezes.

We had simple meals, always on the deck (weather permitting) with fresh produce from the local farmers’ market. The peaches there are large and fragrant with a sweet flavor—the kind that drip down your chin when you bite into them. I baked a peach cobbler with a homemade crust in an iron skillet. We served it with Bluebell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.

Anita Joyce The Family Visit to the Mountain CabinThe beauty of having older guests is that they like to rest in the afternoon, so they are pretty low maintenance. They are not interested in anything that requires hiking up the mountain or wearing a helmet.  We were simpatico hanging out on the deck with access to a full refrigerator while my husband and daughter went zip-lining and rafting. I, of course, presented my sad “wish I could go with you” face as they left, but secretly I was relieved. I wanted to visit, hear family stories and perhaps nap.

Aunt Gloria told me about how another uncle, who happened to be my dad’s boss at the time, got into a big argument with my dad. Being a bit hot-headed they were the kind of men who did not back down from a fight. My uncle was so furious with my dad that he summarily fired him, but my dad decided he would have the last laugh. He just showed up for work the next day like nothing happened.  My uncle was so shocked that he never mentioned it again. I wish I could laugh with my dad about the incident, but that’s impossible this side of heaven.

I enjoyed the time to reconnect and soon it was time for them to return to Oklahoma. I always enjoy guests but often am happy to have a quiet house again after they leave. This time was different. I was sad to see them go. There is something about that blood connection—and it’s good to be around people who knew my dad. We have a shared family history and experience.

As with so many things in life, I have come full circle. In my childhood I adored these family relationships then, as I became a young adult, I sought out people my own age in my circumstances. As friends moved and jobs changed, many of those relationships withered due to neglect and distance, but still the family ties remain. As I get older, I appreciate my family even more than before. I hug them like I’ll never see them again in this lifetime because you never know.

As I saw those taillights turn down the mountain, I remembered again running around my grandma’s yard barefoot with my hair in pigtails. I remember tiptoeing through the garden peering between the corn stalks and tomato plants. I remember the bowl Granddad would bring to the garden as he harvested the okra and how Grandma would batter and fry it.  I remember the slow pace of life, sitting outside eating homemade ice cream as the stars emerged and the fireflies flickered. The adults laughed and talked as we ran and played.  I wonder if they knew how fleeting that time was.

Preparing For Guests
When you have guests, the first thing to consider is making them feel special and welcome. While this really is more about how you treat them than anything else, there are some extra things you can do to make them comfortable.Anita Joyce The Family Visit Guest Bedroom

  1. Set out extra blankets.
  2. Make sure the thermostat is set correctly, and make sure they know where it is so they can adjust it themselves.
  3. Provide comfy seating in their rooms or quarters.
  4. Set out a luggage rack for suitcases.
  5. Empty a dresser drawer so they can put up their clothes.
  6. Have extra hangers in the closet.
  7. Provide a bedside reading lamp.
  8. Place a card with the WiFi network name and password in their room.
  9. Set out a snack in their rooms.
  10. Have fresh fruit available for snacking.

article and photos by Anita Joyce cedarhillfarmhouse.com

Anita Joyce has a city house in Houston, a country house near Shelby and a flair for French style. The former engineer is a wife and mother as well as a self-taught photographer, interior designer, blogger and online entrepreneur who founded cedarhillfarmhouse.com in 2011. Today that site alone has 80,000 unique visitors per month.