On Friday, we began a wonderful visit with some of our relatives from North Carolina. My cousins Harry and Lisa drove the aunts and uncle down for the week-end. What a wonderful time we had. This was the first time Mom has had all her brothers and sisters together in her home. I think she began cooking last Monday, and cooked all week. She had a wonderful dinner for them on Friday night when they arrived. Joy and all her family went over and visited that night. Ian also came home from Birmingham to see them, so he went on Friday also. On Saturday, I went over for breakfast, and then took the whole crew out and about in the big city of Dothan. We went to the mall, and saw some other famous sites, and then they went back to the motel to rest before dinner. Don, Alex and I went over for dinner…even though Alex was really feeling very poorly, he mustered up all his strength to spend some time with them. Joy came over also. Mom had beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes(from scratch and with sour cream),fresh corn, gravy, green beans, rolls, and her divine cheesecake for dessert. Yes, it was as good as it sounds!
Oh, what a time we had! Reminiscing about times and people long gone. They were all trying to remember just where they were born. It seems that the family moved several times and no one is really sure just what house they were in when they entered the world. Then my Aunt Della said that when she got her birth certificate a few years ago, she found out she was a year younger than she thought, and born in a different month! My Aunt Evelyn told a story about playing with matches. She was in the house and the scarf she had around her head caught on fire, she ran from the house, catching the curtains on fire as she flew past, and headed straight for the well. My Mom had been told to draw the water earlier, and she had not done it, so she had just been sent back to the well by an upset mother. Fortunately, she was there when Aunt Evelyn got there and physically stopped her from jumping into the well to put out the fire. That’s all they remember, they can not recall how they put out the fire.
Another funny story was when my Grandaddy found his prize watermelon in the icebox…with the initials ‘E.M.’ carved into it. WHOEVER did it carved too deep and cut all the way through the skin and ruined the watermelon. Grandaddy was very unhappy…but who to punish? Three of his children had the initials ‘E.M.’…and no one owned up to doing the deed. So, what’s a dad to do? Why, spank them all, so he’ll be sure to get the right one. Mom and Aunt Evelyn swear they didn’t do it…Uncle Elwood just grinned and looked mighty guilty!
Oh, how I love these people! Even though, I haven’t ever lived close enough to see them whenever I liked, it’s all ways been enough to know they were there. These are “salt of the earth” people. The kind who will always go the extra mile and are willing to help out at a moment’s notice. They are people who believe in God and choose to honor and worship Him in their daily lives. These are people who have worked hard all their lives and continue to do so. Not complaining…just doing what has to be done. With a smile, I might add. They have survived serious illness and some have lost spouses and children. But, they keep their smiles and sense of humor and soldier on. The cousins are following along the same paths and are taking the Merritt family tradition forward…and now there is the third generation coming along as well, and even a few of the fourth generation. I remember fondly that whenever I was with them, as a child, I always felt I was at home…that I belonged there even though I lived 600 miles away. That speaks to the way the aunts and uncles treated us. We were part of them and their families and their way of life.
As we sat around Mom’s den last evening and talked and laughed and remembered, it felt just the same. I thought of how much I love these people, my aunts and uncles and cousins…my grandmother and grandaddy. I think how proud they would be of the children they bore and raised, of the grandchildren they loved, and of the great- grandchildren that followed, and the great-great grandchildren that are just beginning their journey. Strong words come to mind…HERITAGE…LEGACY…..and the sweetest of all…FAMILY.