Our week in West Virginia was a flurry of playing with cousins, slumber parties, visits with the family matriarch “Ma”, and catching up on laundry in the free family laundromat by washing every single thing in our camper that wasn’t tied down.
Brad’s uncle and aunt are only 10 years our seniors, so we have a lot of fun interacting with their family. They are a decade ahead of us on the parenting adventure, so they are great mentors for swapping stories and gleaning advice.
For the girls, most of the days were filled with visits to the neighborhood swimming pool, long games of hide & seek, slumber parties, and watching movies with their 2nd cousin once removed (???), Bridget.
Brad spent a lot of time getting caught up on work, and also visited the nearby city of Charleston where he went to high school to meet up with 2 old friends. I spent most of my days there mooching the free wifi, free laundromat, and free giant oven. (Our cabinets are now well stocked with homemade granola).
We also enjoyed multiple visits with Ma, Brad’s 101.5 year old Great Grandmother. She’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Even the shortest of interactions with her leaves you feeling magically filled with love and peace and joy. She has a vivid memory and can retell stories from 80 years ago in amazing detail. However, she’s usually more interested in hearing about our lives and understanding what’s new in our world than talking about herself, so you have to come armed with questions if you want to hear more from her than questions and encouragement. I’m so glad we had quality time with her on 3 separate visits during this week. She is the 6th and final grandma that the girls have been able to see since we started this trip almost 10 months ago (if you count their Grandma that we hugged goodbye in Wenatchee as we launched on this journey).
Another great joy during this week was that we were able to celebrate Corals 5th birthday. The Wards generously offered to throw her a party at their house, so we had her requested birthday breakfast for dinner. And then of course for dessert…walrus cupcakes. We are planning to visit the Indianapolis Zoo on Friday to see 2 real walruses, but in the meantime, cupcakes, masks, figurines, and tshirts were as close as we got during our celebration. It wasn’t intentionally planned that we would be staying near family for her birthday, but it definitely made it a more festive occasion. It was a fun and memorable night, just like the sweet little person that we were celebrating.
We left town the next day, stopping to share Walrus cupcakes with Ma and get one last hug as we drove past her home in Ohio on the way to Indiana. Sunny quietly leaned over toward the end of our visit to ask, “Does she stay inside this building all the time?”
“Yes, most of the time,” I answered. “It’s difficult for her to leave this place now because she is so old.”
“But she still talks like a young person,” Sunny replied.
As the girls and I have read through our American History book this spring, we often place the historical events by figuring out how old Ma would have been when any given event took place. We told her that her name had come up many times recently in our historical discussions, and we asked her some questions about life during the Depression. She said that times were tough, but that her family never went hungry. She said they often ate the same few, available foods for every meal.
“My sister used to say,” she told us, “that if you can’t make both ends meat…make one potatoes.”