The Family Reunion Trip
It all started on the morning of Friday, August 7th, 2009. Lately, I have being getting to work a bit late. That morning I decided to travel light ; so I had the lone travelling luggage and left my work bag (with the laptop) behind.
Without the ever present laptop I decided I needed a lot of reading material. As the time for my flight approached, I was still busy frantically printing out ‘white papers’ on MS SQL Server, the database product, I have primarily support over the last few years.
I did have some trepidation about leaving the buildings of Corporate America behind at 8:45 PM on a Friday night with a luggage full of stuff. I was wondering what the building security will think. But, thankfully my fright proved to be unfounded.
Bart being what it is, I waited about 10 minutes between each stop on my way to SF Airport. Upon arriving at SF I was told I could no longer be allowed to board my 10:30 PM Flight to Dallas. My begging did no good and I settled on a flight for 6:00 AM the next morning. The lady tried to tell me that it probably was not much good to travel since I would be coming right back @ 10:00 AM on Sunday, anyways. To which I wanted to reply that she should please mind her own, but curtailed my mouth a bit by saying Oh Thanks.
Upon getting a boarding pass and making my way through security I was able to locate that even present, though sometimes quiet hidden, sympathetic soul who got me on an 11:30 PM flight to Dulles Airport.
Though I had spent all evening killing the rain forest and printing out all these papers neatly arranged in blue vanilla envelopes, I got lazy and decided I better close my eye and rest for the next day.
The flight was so good and the short flight from Dulles to Charlotte was shorter and better.
Bad me, no rental car reservations. Made my way to Thrift where the lady told me since none of the Car Rental companies had any car lefts it will cost $50 per day. I opted to find a cheaper one. Enterprise was a bit better @ $35 per day.
Tried to call the credit company to move money around but finally made sense that it was still only 7:00 AM on the left coast. Got the lady to allow me to use her computer to move money around from Checking to credit card.
As we approached the rental car the lady shared with me that it was the hottest weekend of the Year. Anyone who has been to the South East knows what that could mean.
Called the family patriarch to confirm the highway exits to take and off I drove. It is only about 15 minutes.
Found the house through the scene of cars being prepared for repairs on the drive way and thank goodness for the huge green field to the left of the house (to park some more cars).
Unfortunately I had the wrong cell phone charger and so we drove to a recently relocated Wal-Mart to look for a replacement one. They did not have one, but as we were leaving we over-heard this young lady on the phone asking “Sai o wa ni WalMart; emi no wa ebe ni sen” . Sorry I butchered that one – There is nothing like having an ascent in all languages one speaks. I was trying to write in my native tongue, Yoruba, and the young lady was asking whether the other person was still in Wal-Mart and she is just coming in, as well.
Though the Wal-Mart was only recently opened it was full already. It took 5 to 7 minutes to make our way out of parking lot and two dozen new cars were still trying to make their way in.
They did not have the car charger, but a Verizon at the next exit did. The workers were just so pleasant and nice and makes one happily re-live and enjoy southern hospitality.
With the cell phone charger I felt better about being reachable. My friend, Ernest was still not reachable. His cell was full and not taking any messages and each call rolled directly into voice mail.
Got back home, took a shower, and changed clothes and went back to work the phones and computers. I had three addresses for Ernest – His home address (about 45 minutes away), his parent’s address (about 10 minutes away), and the address to the family reunion dinner location @ a hotel about 15 minutes away.
Since the family home is the closest we chose to go their first. Daddy America and I set out, but I changed plans and shot for the Hotel hoping that someone or some people may already be there, if nothing else preparing for the Banquet.
Made it to the front-desk of the Hotel and asked for my friend’s last name, but they did not have him listed. Later found out it was his mom’s side of the family; should have known that we usually line up on the maternal side.
It has being well over 10 years since I have seen Ernest and so I was a little bit queasy about how we had aged over the years. But, upon seeing him and giving him that first family hug I was OK. We were all broken in. Saw his wife and three children (Katherine [6 years old], Mia [18 mnts.], and Joshua [7 mnts.] named after his teenage nephew that was gunned down in Connecticut about a year now).
Next saw his mother and gave her a hug. The Dad was in bed in the hotel room and so made my way to see him, as well.
Ernest and I took off to get the brochure that listed the schedule of planned events for that evening. Ernest took a call from Richard who was driving in From ATL; another old friend from Central Piedmont who is going to help with the photography. Charles another mutual friend was coming in with his mother and brother, as well.
And, Patrick Coker, my old roommate and brother, was coming in from Greenville, SC (where he had being doing some work) was on his way in also. Patrick is about 6 3 and very dark; he played the role of Zaku Zulu in a school play years back and so everyone knows him. We were room mate and we have stayed very close since.
On the way to pick up the brochure got a good view of Lake Norman. It is such a beautiful sight. The ladies at Kinko that had helped with the brochure felt so very involved with all the preparations. And, they were just so happy that they helped and played a part and role. Ernest really has the ability to connect with people and humanize each interaction.
That area outside of Lake Norman is so very beautiful and yes I wished we had the time to visit Ernest’s home, but we needed to make it to the family reunion.
Made it back and got on one of the computers. We needed to print out the family tree lineage that was being professionally prepared by a lady in the Raleigh, RTP Area.
As happens on this type of occasions people come up to you and ask how you are related; especially when one is African and stubbornly kept that accent. They openly wondered and ask whether you married into the family.
The African drummers and dancers welcomed everyone and started playing those talking drums. Ernest Dad was caught by surprise and tried to call out to Ernest to find out what that was and what was it about drums. I think I succeeded at letting him know it was all part of the programme.
The drums were good, the dancing was better. And, the food, what else but Fried and Baked chicken, rice, beans, vegetables, sweetened eye tea and lemonade was eternal.
We ate a bit and Patrick met us while eating. He and I later went outside where he caught me up with the stories and obligatory pictures. We agreed to meet later that night since I had to live a little early.
I had to go meet up with my Mom to be — Daddy America is engaged to be married. She recently moved to a place in Monroe. About 30 minutes outside of Charlotte. Took Highway 74 – Independence Blvd and some back roads.
Met my new lays – Christen and Chris. Christen is the boy about 16. A medaled runner. And, Christen is the young lady of about 14. She is the sweetest and she has the most beautiful smile that welcomes each soul.
America Daddy’s fiancé is very beautiful and so sweet. She had made steak and vegetables. Her uncle’s had been over helping with the garden and they stayed over for dinner, as well. We ate and I found out they were farmers and ranchers, but moved closer to the city upon visitation by Hurricane Hugo in years past.
Christen left with cousins that came to get her. They had planned a sleep over in South Carolina, about 45 minutes away. Chris had to go down the street, as well. He is kind of shy and asked his mother to tell me he was leaving.
I could imagine how strange it is to the “Man of the house” to see other men coming in. And, so I went to the garage to meet up with him and shook his hands to let him know that I occasionally will ask his mother about him, and for him to please do the same; ask about us.
We left Monroe after eating desert of Vanilla Pudding. It was good. The drive back was easier and quicker; met up with Patrick at Eastland Mall and Daddy America drove himself home.
Patrick took me out to see the town, the Queen City as it is affectionately known. We went to a club, Club Kilimanjaro. Another close friend had opened it a while back. It was mostly young Africans, and Patrick and I shared that was us 15 yrs ago.
We drove to downtown Charlotte and it has changed so much. Young Money from the Banking Industry had taken over and Night Life was young, new, and it was no longer the sleeper southern town.
Got home to Daddy America’s surprise at 3:00 AM.
Patrick woke me up @ 8:30 AM Sunday morning. He wanted us to go see Ade, his older brother. It always amazes to see Sierra Leoners bearing Nigeria names. Yes, I did want to see Ade, but needed to call Ernest and confirm plans for that Day. I opted to drive to Kings Mountain with Ernest and family to visit the church the grand parents attended and was buried.
It is an old AME (African Methodist Episcopal) church. I doubted that the church had 15 of its own members attend that Sunday. Ernest’s family, about 50 filled it up. And, so their attendance was an integral part of the service.
I got a good taste of the Old Negro spirituals; Sam Cooke and others.
I kept a keen eye on the clock and thank goodness we let out @ 1:00 PM. Told Ernest I had to leave.
Made it back to the Airport exactly @ 2:00 PM. The flight was not until 4:30 PM.
On the Plane, I sat in the middle of two of the nicest gentlemen. One was visiting NC on business. He is a PLC Engineer\developer helping build a new dinner food product line for Heinz. He was buff, and knowing how gym rats like to be acknowledged I shared as much. But, he shared that he is just a farm boy from Wisconsin. He had moved to Phoenix many years ago.
He overstayed in NC and missed his week with his boys.
The other is a teacher that moved to Wilmington, NC from Northern Michigan a few years ago. His two choices when leaving Michigan was Colorado or NC. And, we relived our time in the Springs. He was visiting Phoenix to give presentation on Squeak Etoys – http://www.squeakland.org/about/intro/ and Story Telling Alice (http://www.squeakland.org/about/intro/)
I met another cheerful wonderful man on the flight from Phoenix to Oakland. He was traveling with his two sons – The older one is 8 from his wife’s earlier years and their child together 2 from their love. He had married 3 yrs ago, but Immigration was in no mood to grandfather his wife and let her stay and so she left for Mexico with the two children.
And, so every couple of months he visits Mexico. The wife is finally getting her papers and she will be able to come back at the end of the Month. And, so he went a bit ahead to bring the kids back for good. He shared with me that just as he did for the older; he has to say everything twice (in English and Espanola) for the two year old.
He shared with me that he is 36 years now and that he wish he had kids earlier. His friends kids were older about 16, 17. But, he never thought he wanted kids until he met his wife.