I loaded up my duffel bag to throw into the back of my Volvo to drive 4 hours to meet relatives I had only heard briefly about in stories. I was going with my mom and grandmother who had only seen them briefly in the past 40 years. I wasn't sure exactly why I was doing this but here I was on the road to Vermont.
On the way there none of us said anything but all of us were nervous for the reunion that would be taking place the next day. How would people that haven't seen each other in 40 years with seemingly nothing in common fill the air with things to talk about? How long would we even end up staying? How awkward was the day going to be?
Well the day came and after breakfast and taking a few minutes to get ready we were in the car on my way to my cousin's house. Driving through the mountains of Central Vermont, I couldn't help but feel small. As we pulled up a long hill leading to a cute little house on top and the most amazing view from a porch I had ever seen, it was the most nervous I had been the entire trip.
I mean, I had never even seen pictures of these relatives of mine, I had no idea who they were but before we could even all open the doors on my Volvo, my cousins Sue and Dianne were out the door and running towards me with their arms spread open even though they had no idea who I was either. My cousin Sue hugged me tight, squeezed me really and as we pulled back I had no idea why but she seemed familiar to me.
After that I was no longer nervous and realized I had no reason to be. As I walked in the house I saw a large punch bowl on a table surrounded by banana breads, carrots, and pretzels, something I had seen at many family gatherings especially important events all my life. Everything looked familiar. Everything felt comfortable.
And what was supposed to be just a lunch turned into a 5-hour long conversation between what felt like people who had known each other always and seen each other often. The food felt like something I would have at home or at my grandmothers and just like at my grandmothers there was an overflow. My cousin David and his wife showed us around their beautiful antique shop and home. Everyone made us feel welcome.
By the time we left we were hugging everyone two to three times and were already making our plans for what we would do the next time we see each other. And as we were driving down back into the valley waving goodbye I realized that I now had a whole other family that I cared about immensely.
One of the values that my parents have always told my brothers and I is that family comes first and is what is the most important thing that we have in this world. And even though I spent less than half a day with my 3rd cousins, they were now family. So what I learned from this random road trip to meet them is that it doesn't matter how distantly related, how long it has been since you have seen them your family is your family and they are easy to love (especially when they are as amazing as mine).