I’ve been so deep in vacation/road trip la-la-land that I have lost a grip on how long we’ve been gone or what day it is. Personally, I don’t think I can take any more relaxing/eating/boozing/sun/water. I feel the need to be productive. Fortunately it’s wrapping up. Aren’t you glad?
We spent a day and a half at DeBordeau on the South Carolina coast hanging out with relatives from my grandmother’s side of the family. Her youngest brother, Henry, was a prodigious multiplier and his family accounted for 27 attendees, four generations deep. Then two of his sisters’ progeny showed up and I think we numbered 45 for BBQ last night.
My dad has been going on and on about Henry and the gathering at DeBordeau for years. Since the timing worked and we are already married to the road, we figured why not.
Both Henry and his wife must be nearing 90 and are both sharp and funny as ever. The entire clan meets every summer in a ginormous rented house. They spend the day on the beach, usually after tennis, golf, ping-pong or some needlessly combative test of skill.
The ocean was warm and the waves were powerful. I was surprised how long the kids took a beating in the surf, at least an hour of repeated pounding. Then they ran around the beach like maniacs, collected shells, buried each other under the sand, jumped in the pool for a couple hours and then passed out on the couch.
Zeb watched in awe as Henry and Nancy got creamed by waves but shook it off with a smile and then bragged about it later. They reside over their magnificent family with such grace and humor.
Crashed out on the sand. I moved him into the shade.
You never know exactly where you stand with Henry, although I suspect that the more he likes you, the more shit he’ll give you, especially about how much this is costing him. In which case, he loves me. A lot. Of course I’m like, “Back at ya, old man,” and pile it back on.
Talking to him is a glimpse into my family’s history. He had a deep love and respect for my grandfather who was like a big brother to him. He illuminated parts of my grandfather’s personality that I hadn’t known about, as well as my grandmother’s. Being around Henry is the next best thing to being with my own grandparents.
One quirk of my father’s family is their aversion to being called grandma and grandpa. There’s a Mommy Annie, Papa Shoof, Daddy Bill, Mama Mary, Daddy Buzzy, Nana, Papa and so forth.
My boys struggled wrap their heads around how they could be related to so many unknown people. Personally, I had a hard time keeping everyone straight. I already struggle with names and faces so I made eye contact and searched for that look of recognition before I stuck out my hand and introduced myself, only to be reminded that I attended their wedding or we used to be very close or something that would make me feel like a total asshole.
Henry and Helen have four sons and one daughter, and as my father so astutely pointed out, all the sons are overgrown boys married to long-suffering wives that constantly have to remind them that they are supposed to be setting a good example for their kids.
I rather thought they did, at least for mine. Each one shook my boys’ hands and took time to get to know them. Bill (or was it David) coached them to, “Shake my hand and look me in the eye.” I love it.
Now we’re on the road again, speeding towards our big, stupid dog. I can’t believe how much I miss the big dummy. When we’re driving without Blue, I’ll lean my elbow on Zeb’s shoulder and drip some warm water onto his arm just to fill the void.
I feel like we’ve collectively gained 20 pounds on this trip. Being away from Boulder and its’ pervasive environment of eating disorders, coupled with abundance of BBQ, grits and gravy (oh my God, my favorite thing next to mashed potatoes) has everything fitting tightly. I have to suck it up for the trip home, though. Zeb ate a McWrap out of desperation and noted how it sounds a lot like McCrap to him.
A day in the cool air of Asheville, with some time to regroup for the big haul, will be good. I miss home.