Growing up away from my hometown, my mind was set around having my grandparents (on my mama's side), two aunts, two uncles, and four cousins along with my parents and two older brothers. Then there was my great aunts and uncles and my two great-grandmothers, Grandma Katie, and Grandma Lib (who are the two women that I got my name from). I have been told that I met one of my great-grandfather's, but I was so young when he passed away that I do not remember him.
We all spent our holidays at my grandparents' house where my cousins, brothers and I played constantly on an old dirt road with the neighborhood dogs. As we grew up, we became close even though we did not exactly live near one another. We always knew that Mema and Papa's house is our home away from home.
I never thought about having another family on my dad's side of the family until I became older. My dad has two brothers, Uncle Elwood and Uncle Earl. I remember sometimes we would see them when we came home to visit, but I did not think that I might have other cousins like I had on my mama's side.
After high school graduation, my family and I decided to move back home where my eyes were opened as to how much family I truly have.
One of the first people I re-met was my cousin, Jo Ellen. Our parents had pictures of us during Christmas time as Joey held me as a baby, but I was too young to remember. Joey and I have definitely made up for lost times!
At first, we would hang out together during snow days or spend time at each other's houses on our afternoon's off from work and school. Now, we are closer than ever both as cousins and as neighbors! I cannot remember my life before Jo Ellen, especially during Halloween! We have had so many adventures and are planning for more to come!
The day that we began to move to our small town, I remember my mama pointing out all of the houses on the way to our house of people I was related to. After a while, I blurted out, "Is there anyone on this road that I am not related to?" With mama's fast remark and pointing towards another house, she replied, "You're not related to them. They rent that house from your uncle."
My dad grew up on this same road with his four cousins including Jo Ellen and now they have all moved back to this road just in time for retirement.
While re-meeting a lot of my family, I was able to connect to all of my cousins in different ways that I never really thought about. For example, some of my cousins love Broadway shows just like my mama and I do. Now we can all enjoy singing songs together or going to see different shows/movies together! We have even enjoyed singing Broadway shows late at night while we worked preparing for a hurricane.
A couple of my cousins have even gone into teaching (which is my major), so anytime that I need help or just advice then I know I can go right to them to ask! Sometimes it's just fun to watch a teacher in action to learn and they are always more than happy to help any way they can.
Some of my cousins were also writers and photographers which has always been a passion of mine, as well! I was able to relate to so many of my cousins' interests that it was almost insane how much we were all alike when I did not grow up with them.
We all enjoy being a Tar Heel and Pirate fan, so there is hardly any dispute during basketball season since UNC and ECU do not normally play each other during then. Everyone helps out when they can and pray when it is out of our control. I have felt like our family has a more special bond than most families.
Discovering I had this side of my family has always been special to me because it has also been a way to reconnect to my grandparents and great-grandparents on my dad's side. Since they all passed before I was able to meet them, this gave me a way to hear about all of the stories that happened while they were alive which I have always taken to heart. I love hearing all of their stories and how some of my family were able to experience life with such sweet people.
I am more than thrilled to be home in my small town, USA and even more glad to be able to be so close to all of my family. They have all taught me so much over the years and I will continue to learn from them as the year's progress.
The Hill side of my family and the Boyette side of my family will always be very dear to my heart and I cherish each and every one of you deeply. You have all made me a better person and I love you all! Know that I will always be there for you all. Thank you for being a part of my life!