Wednesday, June 22, 2011

There was no formal invitation. No detailed agenda. No dress code. Just a weekend, a beautiful weekend, where a family gathered in an old historic city - New Bern, North Carolina. And while this historic city is truly historic, it held much, much more history for one family. Aunts and uncles, cousins and grands, spouses and siblings, all connected by a common bond gathered to talk, to share and for some, meet one another for the very first time. The weekend in itself was history in the making.

It was in this old city that a great family was started many, many years ago. Two sets of couples, the Owens' and the Hardisons, not living far from one another, began their own lives and their own families. And from these families came two individuals, Margaret Owens, one of two children and Bill Hardison, one of seven. (Yes, seven.) These individuals were born (just blocks from one another) and raised in New Bern, NC. Individuals who grew up just two doors apart. Individuals who attended the same school, started their first jobs and then began courting. And it was in this great city that Margaret and Bill, also known as Hard Rock, were united as one. After marrying they moved to the small town of Orangeburg, South Carolina where they had four sons of their own. And it's because of these two invdivuals that I am here today. I'm so thankful for them and so honored to call them my grandparents. My Mammie and Poppadaddy.

Over ten years ago, after a major surgery and an almost seven month hospital stay, we lost my Poppadaddy. We lost a gracious and wise man. A kind and generous man. A man larger than life itself. A man whom I loved beyond measure and one who meant the absolute world to me. But what we didn't lose were the memories and the stories he left behind. And this past weekend I was able to see and experience some of those firsthand. It was a weekend that will forever be imprinted on my heart for so many reasons. It was a weekend that made me feel so full, yet so sad at times. A weekend spent with people nearest and dearest to me. And a weekend to meet relatives that I had never met before. A weekend I didn't want to end.

While Mammie and Poppadaddy are both from New Bern, it was Poppadaddy's family that we were returning to see. The Hardison side. We were gathering with all of the chidlren, grandchildren and great-grands from Poppadaddy and his six siblings. Many of my aunts and uncles and cousins and even my parents have been to New Bern before. But not me. It was my first trip. We, meaning my dad, all of his brothers, some of theirs spouses, some of their children and grandchildren and of course my precious grandmother, all left Friday morning for the five hour trek to New Bern, NC. My dad and his brothers were giddy with excitement, constantly calling one another to see who would arrive first and who was the caboose. And once we arrived in New Bern they swapped their cell phones out for walkie talkies. Such kids at heart.
We arrived with plenty of time and daylight to spare. Time that allowed us to visit a few local "hot spots", a gift shop or two, even a playground and then a tour of the city with Mammie as the narrator. A tour that took us to the house my Mammie was born in. And the houses Mammie and Poppadaddy grew up in. We rode by the elementary school they both attended and the Methodist church in which they were married. We visited two different cemeteries to see headstones of those no longer with us. We saw Riverside Iron Works, where my great-grandfather worked. It just felt right to walk down the same streets my grandparents had walked down as children. To stand in the yards of the houses they grew up in. To stand on the sidewalk in front of the church where they were married and think about what that day must have been like. And before the night was over we ventured to a local seafood restaraunt where Travis and I dined on steamed oysters on the half shell and a dozen blue crabs. After dinner some of us even braved the cold water at the hotel pool for a late night swim. Morgan Kate included.

Poppadaddy's house on the left and Mammie's on the right
House Mammie was born in, built in 1910

Church where Poppadaddy and Mammie were married

Saturday morning we all gathered at "The Meeting Place", which at one time was an old pharmacy. The name is quite fitting, huh? We spent hours meeting family members, sharing stories and pictures, eating, conversing and swapping memories. Of course I spent lots of time sharing my hearts, Travis and Morgan Kate. I met many of my dad's first cousins and their children and some of their children. My Aunt Rhonda put together an amazing slideshow for our entire family that included a family tree, many pictures and updates on everyone. My dad's first cousin, Marianna, shared  with us old pictures of my grandaddy and his siblings as children and young adults. And Mammie, being the only living spouse, had things to share with us that no one else could, as it is she that has known my grandaddy and his family the longest.
First cousins
Lane, Richie, Lewis, Corky, Loitton, Jimmy
Marianna, Barbara Jean, Ginger
Not only was it a weekend to gather with new faces, but more famliiar ones as well. There were only a few of our immediate family members who weren't able to attend. Two of those faces being those of my sibilings. (Let's not even get that conversation started.) While these faces are much more familiar, they are still not faces I see on a daily basis. So for me, this weekend wasn't just about spending time with "new" family, but "old " family as well. And that's something that make my heart so full. We were able to tour the city together, dine together, swim together, laugh together, run through the hotel together and even sit through a fire alarm together. Memories in the making.
Of course, no trip would be complete without a photo shoot of my best girl. Next to the Meeting Place was the railroad station and it provided the most perfect backdrop for some new photos of Morgan Kate.

A full weekend, indeed. Full of good times and laughter. Full of family and love. Full of old memories and new. Full of stories and tales. Full of smiles, especially Mammie's, that made me feel all warm and fuzzy. A weekend that made my heart so full, yet so sad because I couldn't share it with my Poppadaddy. A weekend that I will forever remember. I'm so thankful that I was able to share it with my baby and my hubby and my parents. I'm so thankful for all of my family that made the trip and got together. I'm so thankful for those that organized the weekend. I'm so thankful for those two families from New Bern long ago. And especially I'm thankful for my Mammie and Poppadaddy.


Kelly Lee said...

What a beautiful post. Sounds like you had an amazing weekend. Thanks for sharing your story and the pictures. I love you and your whole family.

Kathy Hardison said...

WIsh we could do it again. So much fun. LY&MY

Anonymous said...

Heather...I am like you...I LOVE family gatherings. We just had the Burleson Family Reunion and had the greatest time with everyone! Such awesome memories to hold on to. And Father's Day we had immediate family over to the house for grilling some yummy ribs and chicken kebobs and chillin' by and in the pool. Lots of laughter and love shared. I think you and I are very blessed :) Love, Mrs. Phala

Melissa and Sam said...

What a special trip this was for your family. I loved seeing the pictures of the houses and all the fun that you all had. Thanks for sharing. I love family stories, especially yours! Love you!