We've had family in town for the past few days: my great aunt and her daughter, my cousin.
I picked up my auntie Thursday afternoon and took her to my grandma's for their first ever sisters' sleepover. A bunch of family members went to dinner that night. My daughter and I had other plans and couldn't attend.
Friday afternoon my daughter and I picked up my cousin, had lunch with her, then took her to my grandma's where her mom was hanging out.
My other cousin and aunt came over too. I enjoyed the visit immensely.
The older I get, the more I want to know our extended family. (So many kin folk we don't know!) However, it's a difficult endeavor because of the circumstances of my grandmother's birth and rearing.
Heck, when I was growing up, we didn't know that my grandma had a sister. She also had three brothers (that we know of) via my maternal great-grandmother. Only one of them is still alive. We met him many years ago at the funeral of one of the other brothers.
I also learned several years ago that my maternal great-grandfather had another daughter and son. Ironically, I met their mom (my step-great-grandmother) one day as I was taking a walk with my daughter who was maybe two at the time.
We were strolling the neighborhood we lived in, possibly walking to my grandma's who lived a few miles away (but maybe not because I recall the street we were on and my grandma's house was in the other direction).
Any way, we came across a woman in the front yard of a house. The woman bore a strong resemblance to my grandmother. She came to the gate to greet us and we began to talk. I told her she looked like my grandmother and she told me my daughter looked like one of her grandchildren.
This part is vague but I believe she told me her name and I told her ours. We talked for a bit then my daughter and I continued our walk.
Later I told a family member (probably my mother) and got one of the biggest surprises of my life when I learned who the woman was. Her two children, my great-aunt and great-uncle, were my grandmother's younger siblings.
Apparently my mother and her siblings knew them but my cousins and I had never met them or even heard tell of them. At the time I learned the story, I also learned that difference of religious beliefs was what led my family to cut themselves off from them.
I was floored and a bit angry.
My daughter and I walked that street again, hoping to see my newly-found relative but to no avail. I couldn't remember which house and I didn't feel comfortable knocking on the doors of possible strangers.
A few years later I just happened to be browsing the obituary section of the Washington Post and I came across my step-great-grandmother's obituary. I shared it with my family and I was saddened that I'd never gotten to see her again. There was so much I'd wanted to ask her.
So now I take every opportunity to reach out to people I suspect are relatives, even if I don't know how we're related.
So, today's agenda calls for more family members in the area to visit auntie and cousin at my other auntie's house. My daughter and I won't be there but it's okay. We had yesterday.
There were a lot of smiles, a lot of laughter, a lot of love.
And we took lots of photos.
I'm so thankful for being able to make those memories.