“When you replace ‘Why is this happening to me?‘ with ‘What is this trying to teach me?‘ everything shifts.” ~ Unknown
I promised a photo of the Birthday Girl and here are two with one of her two beloved (and adorable) nephews, Josh. Annie loves her nephews beyond all telling and I was really glad to finally meet at least one of them (I missed her nephew Jessie by minutes, unfortunately). I believe she had a real good birthday.
Aunt Charlene and Uncle Tony invited us Lexington Terry transplants over for a pre-Christmas meatloaf dinner. We couldn’t all be there, but most of us actually could. I got to see cousin Tamara and her husband Curt. They’re always a delight to be with. Cousin Steven and Aunt Marcie were able to be with us, too. His Bob Ross-in-a-Santa-hat t-shirt just made me giggle out loud…all most as much as Charlene’s lemon cake in the foreground of these pictures. The food was incredibly delicious, but more than that, being with family was just what the doctor ordered. I continue to count my blessings.
Once more Aunt Lois opened her home to the family so we could enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together. Last year we had over thirty of us. Mike Moore’s brother came along. This year we had a smaller crowd, no less grateful mind you, and Aaron Watkins brought his grandfather along. I love it that folks once removed join us for dinner. For instance, Lois’ neighbors, Vidia Marshall and her son William, always join us. They’re just delightful as can be and I look forward to being with them every year. The more the merrier I say, but actually, we all say that. There’s close to 100 of us in the immediate family, so we do the-more-the-merrier better than just about anyone. Plus, they let me make the ham and pies; recipes I’m perfecting with every holiday. I had a great time and I especially had a good time with cousins Renee, Jessica, and Missy. We howled with laughter more than once. All reasons to be thankful.
I don’t know why I love this picture so much, but I sure do. Maybe it’s the generations. Maybe it’s that the women – Robin Jackson and her mother Sonja Herron Keck – are looking one direction as the men – Sonja’s man, Wayne Gourley, and her great-grandson (Robin’s grandson) Ace – look another. Or maybe it’s that they’re eating (Sonja’s an incredible cook), they’re listening to music, and they’re together. This was Ace’s first 2-Pony Fall Ball. He took to it like a champ and never once shied away from my camera. I even got good shots of his elusive Mema, Sonja, and she’s a tough one to nail down. Meanwhile, Robin Jackson deserves a medal, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the Fall Ball. She, Marilyn Crain, and Tanya Comingdeer put the party together and took it apart. I love her dearly and I was thrilled to see most of her family on hand to celebrate friendship and music. I’m eternally grateful for all of them.
At the recent family gathering I finally had the chance to meet Mike Neal, a cousin I’d never met before, photographed here with his wife Tammy and their kids Jonah and Jovannah. I’d met Tammy and the kids last year at Charlene and Tony’s wedding. They were, and are, simply delightful. As the day wore on I kept running into Jonah, and by the end of the day, we’d had several great conversations. This young man is not only as sweet as the day is long but he’s really smart and compassionate. In our talks we learned that England is a favorite for both of us, and that led to a wonderful conversation about seminary and study at Oxford. Like AJ, I predict great things from Jonah, and like AJ, I share in his family’s pride of his awesomeness. They’ve raised a great guy.
Every fall uncle Harold and his boys Brian, Evyian, and Kevin hook the trailer to the tractor, throw on some hay, and take us for a ride up one holler or another. It’s fun for all of us regardless of age. I almost didn’t go this year. I just wasn’t feeling it. Until the tractor started to pull away, and then, like a five year old, I wanted to go. Lucky for me Evyian drives slow. Of course I had a fabulous time as you can see below. And yes, that’s me in a UK hat and Brian in a UofL hoodie. He takes the ribbing in good humor. He’s a keeper just like the hay rides.
We had our fall family gathering today at Uncle Harold and Aunt Phyllis’ farm in Morgan County (that’s Eastern Kentucky for those unfamiliar). Fall’s brisk weather finally swooped in and made the day crisp and overcast. Perfection. We ate hearty foods, drank hot coffee, had our annual hay ride, shared birthday cake for Dad and Aunt Linda, and told ghost stories. In fact, that may have been the most fun of the day, sitting in a room surrounded by the elders telling stories of visitations and haints galore; the fantastic and the believable. There was something very, very different about this gathering from the others we’ve had. I sensed a calm in the air. The bittersweet thirst for those no longer with us while reveling in their memories in unadulterated happiness. Perhaps Cousin Brian was on to something during the hayride. “We are the age our parents were when we went on hayrides,” he said as we sat sandwiched between first and third generation Terrys. It happens to every generation in every family, in slow, often imperceptible ways until one day Cousin Brian sees the culmination of time in a single moment. The realization that the changing of the guard is fully underway. This is just one blessing of this family; to have sustained multiple relationships over decades that can come together and celebrate goodness. To be truly grateful for the gifts in spite of the sadness, to me, is a mark of great faith. That is something this family has in spades.
Tonight we celebrated dad’s 80th birthday. Sixteen of us were able to gather at Ramsey’s for a Monday night dinner and he was just as tickled as he could be to see everyone. Before dinner he got a call from his brother Darrell in Flatwoods, and during dinner he got phone calls from his sister Mable in Florida and great-nephew AJ at work. The clincher of the night may well have been Marcie and Steven Terry. Marcie is dad’s baby brother James’ wife and Steven, their son, is the youngest Terry grandchild. He’s also the tallest at 6’3″. Dad has always thought Steven favors his dad, but after James died, I noticed that dad longs to talk with him. He was visibly moved that Steven and Marcie drove from Stanton on a work night to be with him. It meant the world to me and mom, too. This family really pulled together to give dad a wonderful birthday. We didn’t think he’d survive to see 80, and everybody at that table was keenly aware of the gift we’ve been given to celebrate him once more. Never take your people for granted. Celebrate them at every opportunity.
Tony and Charlene are having a large yard sale tomorrow in West Liberty. At the last minute, not wanting to miss out on the upcoming holiday extravaganza, they threw a summer dinner for the family who could get to them in Lexington. It was a great way to spend a Monday evening, and the food was, as usual, fantastic. If I haven’t mentioned it, my aunt Lois Nell makes the best baked beans in the world. She’s also not at all afraid of my camera (see above photo). She’s getting a lot better with it, too. I better be careful or she’ll be taking all the pictures before I know it, and that can only mean one thing: I’ll be in them. That will never do. HA! I sure enjoy this bunch, and I’m really lucky they let me hang out with them.