First off, Mitch's mom, Karen, came and stayed with the kids during the day while Mitch worked. (Marc was here, too, but we all know that moms deserve the credit, right??). My good friend Bonnie was the "Mercy taxi" and saw us off to the airport AND back home from the airport. Yay! Our flights were wonderful. We had a layover in Memphis. Mercy slept or was happy most of the time, and she charmed other travelers. A flight attendant got Mercy a set of "wings". On our little puddle-jumper between Memphis and Knoxville the seat beside me was empty. I slid over to the window seat and enjoyed the extra room as well as the view.
On the ground in K-town, I was met by my mom, Janet, and my sister, Jess. It was SOOOOO SOOOOO good to get hugs all around. ::Ahhhhh::
On Friday Jess took me to the Museum of Appalachia where she works, for lunch. I had the special, which was Swiss Steak, with green beans and fried apples. YUM. Oh, and of course I had a Coke. :)
I got to see my sweet niece, Caroline, for the first time in 3 years. Of course she doesn't remember me, but she was a charmer!
I was so blessed to coordinate my trip with my sister, Carrie, who lives on the other end of Virginia. She drove out for the weekend, too. Her girls, Beth and Pippa, and her son Angel were with her.
Amazing how our families have grown! We waited around just long enough for my other niece, Julia, to get home from school. I was really enjoying my time to relax and visit with my family, but I also kept wishing my kids (and Mitch, too!) were with me so the cousins could play. They would have had so much fun. I hope we can go visit soon.
On Saturday I traveled up to Virginia to visit more of my family. There I saw my dad, and I stayed with him a couple of nights. It was fun to see his tastefully decorated "man cave" and to talk camera talk with him. I dug into his bag of Nikon lenses and tried out a few. I have to admit, his super wide-angle lens was charm to hold. :) Of course, Dad thought that Mercy was a charm to hold. He put her to sleep.
I went to see my mom, Cindy. Yes, I have two moms. Aren't I lucky?? The term "step" doesn't apply to my moms, but if you really want to know which is which, see if you can figure it out yourself. ;) Carrie and her kiddos were staying with our mom for the long weekend, so we spent most of Saturday and Sunday with her, too. Mercy and I went to church with her Sunday morning (Mother's Day). We all went out to eat Sunday night at the Huddle House. It was good food, and I surely enjoyed the drive to Pennington Gap.
My brother Bobby brought over his family to visit. He also has two girls. All my siblings--Jess, Carrie, and Bobby--have two girls (plus Carrie has one boy). The girls loved the baby. This is my first trip home where I have gotten to see Bobby as a daddy. On my last trip home, I saw him one day and the girls the next day while he was working. My trip before that, they were expecting their first child. So it was really a surreal thought. My baby brother is a daddy! He is a good daddy! Oh, and obviously I don't get home often enough.
Lee is my step-dad, and he is a tobacco farmer. He also works in construction, runs a small saw mill, raises cattle, harvests hay, and who knows what else! Bottom line: he works hard, and retirement doesn't seem to be anywhere in the future. Lee had four calves in the barn. One was orphaned, one had a mother who couldn't nurse, and the other two were abandoned. Lee said it had never happened in all his life and now this year it happened twice. One calf's mother gave birth just a few meters away from another cow giving birth on the same day. They got their calves mixed up, fighting over the one calf and abandoning the other. A few days later the event happened again. So he is now up to four calves being bottle-fed. Pippa was such a good helper. She would wash the bottles, fill them, and help feed the calves. She even got up at the crack of dawn. I was impressed!
This small green house (below) is a water bed for the tobacco plants. There are heaters in the houses in case the temperature falls too low. Tobacco is an interesting industry. It is part of "home".
Monday morning I woke up to frost on the windows. Brrrr...Minnesota came looking for me, and found me! I loaded up with Mercy and headed to my mom's house in the early morning for one last visit before heading back to TN. We got over there before my mom was even awake--oops! The peak in the distance (below) is called the "White Rocks".
The three of us with our mom. Mom says she thinks it may be the last time we are all together. I sure hope not! Getting this picture was hilarious. The temperature was right at 32 F that morning, and we were all freezing. I couldn't get my remote to work (we were too far away), and setting the timer wasn't going so well, either. Mercy was asleep in my arms, and that slowed me down. In the end, we were all slightly out of focus, and I was disappointed, but I knew that no one else would be willing to do a retake. Like I said, there had better be a next time.
Later, Carrie and I went digging for photos. I have been saying for 2 months that Mercy looks just like her. Here is a picture that I think shows it:
It was time to start saying "goodbye" as my trip neared a close. I drove to my childhood home--the farm where I grew up--and visited with my aunt. She said, "You are looking more like your mother every day." I didn't want to be rude, but wow--when I drove up, she was bent over talking to her dogs, and she looked JUST like my grandmother. So I said, "So are you!" :) We visited for a while, but I was itching to get back to Tennessee and my Janet. I propped my kindle on the dashboard, put on the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings (to my favorite track), and drove over the ridge, a ride I had made many times before. This peaceful ride only lasted a few minutes, but it was a happy place for me to settle on and I wanted the memory to last forever. The day was just perfect, and I found a place to pull over and take some pictures of the mountains marching on towards Cumberland Gap.
Below is a picture of my old high school, Thomas Walker.
I cried a little as the road carried me away. It reminded me of when I left 16 1/2 years ago. It truly is a beautiful place, with wonderful people I am proud to call family.
Tuesday morning came almost too soon. I was anxious to get home to my kids, no doubt, but I was certainly not anxious to say goodbye. My time away had been relaxing, and my cup was full to the brim. I cried at the curb where Mom dropped us off, Mercy and me. We wandered slowly through the airport with time to spare. As my plane lifted off the ground, I found myself crying again. I wasn't near the window, but whenever I looked out the sliver of window I could see, I was pained to watch the mountains falling away.
There was so much good stuff that happened on my trip. I worked through lots of things in my heart, and I was able to reforge relationships that had gotten a little rusty. I found some answers to questions I didn't even know I had. There is certainly more. I surely hope that it won't be so long before I go again.