Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Great Spencer Family Reunion

So, we were supposed to leave for NC after I got off work on the 2nd, but my parents forgot and scheduled lab work for Dad on the morning of the 3rd. So we planned to leave at 8 a.m. instead. Needless to say it was 9:30 before we actually got underway. Partly because nobody could get up & moving, and partly because I had to totally unpack & repack the damn trunk in order to get my stuff in. (We took their car)

The drive wasn't too awful to start. Traffic was tolerable, the roads were fairly clear, and we didn't hit much construction. The first hiccup came when we were entering Winston-Salem NC. Mom was driving. The exit we have to take to get to I-40 is an ugly, sharp curve with about a 6 ft merge lane and even *I* mumble prayers on it. Mom, for some reason, gunned the engine as we were getting to the sharpest point on the curve and forgot to turn the wheels, so we nearly went careening into the guard rail. Daddy squawked about it for the next 30 miles.

Second hiccup came as we got on Hwy 264 to head toward the swamp. At that point, we were racing Hurricane Arthur to the upper NC coast. I was driving into heavy sporadic bursts of rain that were totally blinding. We got to Washington (where I was going to be staying)at about 11. The sky fell apart right after we got into our rooms and I was quite grateful to be off the road. We had a couple of brief power failures, but nothing too horrible.

Next morning: Loaded the parents & some extra supplies we were asked to bring into the car and headed to Englehard. Google maps said to look for State Road X on the directions to Cousin Josephine's house. What they/we didn't know is that it has since been given a street name. My father very (un)helpfully told me that I should have turned AFTER I passed it. Sigh. We finally got there, taking a ridiculously long way around. Jo was very happy to see us and horrified that I was going to be driving back & forth to Washington every day we were there while my parents stayed with her. (it was only 90 minutes each way, LOL) I promised her I'd be fine. Her power, as most of the town's, had been knocked out by the storm. She had a generator running, so there was a/c. We had to go buy more gas for it, and get another cousin to get it running again. I could have figured it out, but Jo was insistent that "one of those useless boys" should do it for her.

We got Uncle John on the phone, only to find out that he & Cousin Henderson weren't going to arrive until Saturday. So we sang Happy Birthday to him and tried to figure out where we were going to store the sheet cake we'd ordered so the frosting wouldn't melt.

My sisters Angie & Audrey arrived with their husbands. Like me, they were staying in Washington & commuting all weekend. We sat around chatting for hours while Jo called every relative she had a number for to tell them we were there. (Quick note- Jo is about 3-5 years younger than Dad, but is his niece. It amused me to hear this elder woman call him Uncle Leonard all weekend. They were pretty much raised as siblings) The utility company got the power restored at 4 (to everyone's relief) and we found out that the local seafood restaurant that everyone loved was going to be open at 5:30, so plans were made to go there for dinner.

I have to say, the food was pretty good. I tried their fried flounder (yum!) and fried okra (even better!) and had a hush-puppy eating contest with my BIL J.R. (I won) The siblings headed back to town, while I drove the old folks back to Jo's. They made me promise not to stay too long as everyone was nervous about me driving through the swamp by myself after dark. I don't know why- even *I* know not to speed in unfamiliar territory with steep curves and flooded canals on each side of the highway, especially in a racist-run county on a holiday speed-trap weekend. I had to promise to text/call everyone when I got back to the hotel.

Decided to go to Wal-Mart when I got back to Washington, but I duly texted everyone to let them know I'd arrived safely. Wandered around for longer than I intended, so it was about 10 when I pulled into the hotel parking lot. My sibs were out in the parking lot watching the fireworks and waiting for me to get there. They'd all left their phones in their rooms, so they hadn't seen my message. Roy told me that they'd just been debating on whether or not they should go look for me. We watched the end of the fireworks and decided to call it a night.

Saturday- The festivities weren't supposed to start until 3, so I had told everyone not to expect me much before that. So, of course I got a zillion phone calls wanting to know if I was ok, if I was lost, and when I'd be arriving.

Let me tell you something about my dad's family. There are a LOT of them. Dad is the 2nd youngest of 23 kids. (only 4 are still with us) Most of them produced a large number of children, who followed the same route. There were about 150 people there Saturday and that wasn't even 1/3 of the family. Amusingly enough, to me anyway, out of all those people, there was still nobody that really looked like me. Saw lots of dopplegangers of my sibs and their kids, though! We managed to get most everyone herded over to the tent that had been set up for the cook-out and had a presentation of birthday acknowledgements for Uncle John and some cousins who'd had birthdays recently, and then they had this pastor get up to deliver a sermon/prayer.

Yeah, I'm still a heathen. And this guy was a holy roller, hell-fire & brimstone preacher. Mom swatted me for giggling several times throughout the service. At one point, he went on for 10 minutes about how all problems could be solved by "putting the blood (of Christ) on them." I bit my lip until it bled, but kept quiet until he said to tell your boss-man that "you're going to put the blood on him so he won't bring you down!" All I could think of was what the expression on my boss' face would be and how quickly he'd have me served with a mental inquest warrant if I said that in our office and I lost it. Luckily I buried my face in my hands to stifle the giggles, so all anyone saw was my shoulders shaking and feet tapping, so they all assumed I was "caught up in the spirit" and nobody was offended. When I regained my composure, I looked around and you could tell which cousins weren't exactly comfortable with that type of ministry because they were all shifting restlessly in their spots. The final straw was when the pastor began pointedly preaching about how God created MAN and WOMAN and they should remain as God created them. Kind of brassy when you realized (as many of us did over the course of the weekend) that the cousin who had spearheaded the reunion and booked this clown was Transgender. Not cool. What happened to letting God be the only judge?

Anyway, he finally put a sock in it and we got to eat. The food wasn't the greatest, but it wasn't awful. We had to all but drag Uncle John over to cut his birthday cake. He was determined not to be the center of attention and cousins Niesha, Charvella, & I were equally determined that he was. One of the sweetest moments, and I'm still kicking myself for not getting a picture of it, was when the oldest Spencer male presented the first piece of cake to the youngest Spencer boy present. Little Damarion, age 1, had no idea why we were all cheering and clapping, but he was happy to scarf down that cake!

I didn't stay for the dance that was scheduled later. I was developing a sick headache and wanted to go back to the hotel to try to sleep it off.

We were supposed to leave right after they went to church Sunday morning. I was tasked with picking up the fried chicken order for the fellowship dinner and delivering it before collecting my parents for the trip home. We didn't get back on the road until almost 4, much to my dismay. I'll spare my reader/s the details of the drive home except to say that my mother still apparently can't drive and read road signs, my father is still a pain in the butt about wrong turns and getting in/out of the car in a timely fashion, and I got a damned speeding ticket in VA. (GRRR) Oh, and we didn't get to my house until 6 a.m. Monday.

As a result of the travel stress, my CFS has flared up big time; my face has broken out; and my knees/back ache like hell. But it made Daddy & Uncle John very happy that we went, so that makes it worth all the aggravation.

Next year's reunion is tentatively scheduled for August. I'm not going. I swore that if I traveled anywhere next year, it would be to England, and I'm not giving it up for anybody!

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