Shadows and light — Boone, N.C., May 2017
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Shadows and light — Boone, N.C., May 2017
Early morning — outside Boone, N.C., May 2017
Simpler times — Boone, N.C., May 2017
Murals and shadows — Boone, N.C., May 2017
The six Cook-McFarland cousins have not all been together in more than four years, so it was great to have everyone (including Conner, Nick's significant other) in the same place this past weekend in Boone for Jill's family reunion. These pics show they were quick to pick up where they left off...
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
The Hodges-Love family reunion drew about 50 people to Oak Grove Baptist Church in Boone over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. It brought together family members from Jill's maternal grandparents, many of whom we haven't seen in years. Here are a few photos; the rest can be seen in my Facebook album here.
Meanwhile, as part of the event, I took a series of shots of old family photos to display in the room. Below is one; you can see the rest by going to this link in the VIsual Storytelling section of the website.
I've had the kids on the brain this morning, particularly thinking about the pyramid picture I took of the six first cousins in Boone over Memorial Day. I wanted to recreate the pyramids the kids did in their youth and (after much cajoling/negotiation) managed to get them to recreate this one from Memorial Day weekend nine years earlier.
Granny's hats — from Boone, N.C., but shot in Lorton, Va., in March 2017
In what has become an annual tradition, the Cooks and McFarlands were together again on Memorial Day. This year, the location was Boone, where we saw Jill's dad, walked around Appalachian (one of Nicholas' possible college choices), visited Jill's Uncle Glenn, and ate a nice dinner with cousins Glenda, John, and Teresa Eggers and James McGhee.
The Cooks and McFarlands continued the tradition of being together for Thanksgiving despite some logistical hurdles. This year had a couple of twists: No Nicholas this year (sadly), and a one-day trip from New York to Boone for Ben and Dad in between two show days for "Billy Elliot." In addition to a family reunion covered in the next photo album, this year's highlight was football, gymnastics, and family time conversation in the front yard of the house where Jill grew up.
Thanksgiving also served as a Hodges family reunion in Boone for Jill's first cousins. Dinner was held at First Baptist Church with multiple generations in attendance. The event included great food, play time for the kids, and a chance for some nice family fellowship.
Six weeks after the death of Jill's father, we attended another funeral, this time for her Uncle Glenn, the patriarch of the Hodges family. A somber occasion made better by wonderful music, pearls of wisdom, and fond memories. I was a pallbearer at the service and was reminded throughout the day that Glenn Hodges never allowed his personal morals and value system to impede his ability to be kind, compassionate, and giving toward others.
The McFarland/Cook/Hodges clan reunited for the funeral of Jill's father, giving cousins a chance to reminisce and say goodbye.
A series of Instagram images taken while cleaning out Jill's childhood home in Boone this past weekend.
Four Instagram images that look at aspects of my wife's childhood home on the one-year anniversary of my father-in-law's death — Boone, N.C., January 2013
Top Photo: Six first cousins in front of Jill's family home in Boone, N.C. — Thanksgiving Day, 2005. Bottom: The same six on the front porch in February 2013.
Morning fog outside Boone, N.C. — May 2010
This shot, taken in Boone in May 2010, is from the back of Jill's grandparents house. At one point, they owned the entire side of a mountain in the North Carolina town, before havng to sell off parcels to pay for medical bills. The house had no air conditioning — not that you really need it in Boone — and no central heat. Instead, the family relied on chimney fires to stay warm during Boone's bitter winters.
The house was sold in 2011, almost 20 years after the death of Jill's grandmother. Every time we passed through town, we had to drive by and see what had happened to the family homestead. Following the death of Jill's father and uncle earlier this year, the number of trips we will make to Boone will decline considerably, but I'm sure we will be wistful everytime we drive past the house that meant so much to her family.
Crosswalk at Appalachian State University — Boone, N.C., May 2010: Taking a tour of the campus where Jill's parents taught, we crossed under a main street through a tunnel decorated with graffiti. I stayed behind and caught the family walking ahead.
Boone, N.C., May 2010 — During our recent trip to Boone for Jill's high school reunion, I was reminded of this picture that I took while visiting with her family for Memorial Day weekend. This rundown house, which is still standing three years later, is just across the street from the cemetery from where Jill's mom, uncle, and grandparents are buried.
Outside Boone, N.C., May 2010: On Memorial Day weekend, we took our semi-annual pilgrimage to the North Carolina mountains to visit with Jill’s dad and extended family. By this time, I had been severely bitten by the photo bug, and was anxious to test my newfound skills in a rural area. For some reason, I woke up just after sunrise on Sunday morning. WIth everyone else asleep, I went on a photo hunt, and found this scene just as the morning fog was lifting.
Sometimes it takes a little while for things to hit me. I usually prefer to keep a respectful distance between my emotions and the rest of my daily life.
Occasionally, however, I get blindsided at the most unusual times for reasons I rarely understand at the moment. When I do, it feels being hit by the wave you see in the opening credits to “Hawaii Five-O” (original, remake, and Emma’s TV show of the season).
That happened this past weekend, another you can file under the familial "One to Remember" category. Fracturing the time line, let’s start with Monday afternoon, when I went to the pool near our house.
Memorial Day is the ceremonial start of summer in Northern Virginia, the time when the various suburban HOAs decide it’s finally time to open the community pools. Freezing cold or scorching hot, families flock with their towels and sunscreen and stake claims to the lawn chairs. Some, like us, you will rarely see; others won’t leave until Labor Day.
I took a book — one of several I’ve been trying to read unsuccessfully for the past several months — and a seat next to Jill while Kate played with some friends.
The title — Everything Changes.
The pool and book were a nice way to end a weekend that at times felt more like Groundhog Day (the movie) than Memorial Day (the holiday). On a 900-mile roundtrip that lasted just over 48 hours, I watched as my oldest graduated from high school and my wife and brother-in-law took care of their ailing father.
It was an explicit reminder that we officially are part of the Sandwich Generation, even if our hoagie feels open faced/ended and overwhelmed by condiments. (And that was before I managed to rekindle old ties in the most unlikely of places…)
Because he is the family’s oldest child (and grandchild), Nicholas’ graduation is huge in varying degrees for everyone involved. His transition to adult life turns a large page for him (obviously), as well as both of his families.
The weekend’s activities were an opportunity to bask in nostalgia, to show how proud we are of him, and to take some time remembering what has happened in getting to this point.
But first, we traveled to Boone to see Jill’s dad, who marked his 80th birthday this month by landing in the hospital with a broken arm and a cancer diagnosis. It was not exactly the way you want to start the ninth decade of your life, but Bob was happy to see his grandchildren, and to get some time away from the rehab facility where he currently resides.
Jill and her brother have an up-and-down history with their dad, but both are committed to ensuring that he has comfort, and above all else, dignity. They saw his desire to return to his house and are working to fulfill it as they can, even though we live 7 hours away and Jill’s brother is 3 hours from Boone.
Putting aside past wounds is tough, but admirable, especially in what will continue to be uncertain times ahead.
Two additional truisms/clichés were reinforced this past weekend: Irony is alive and well, and the world is a very small place. Both came courtesy of our newly coined high school graduate and two of his closest friends.
One disadvantage of Nicholas’ living in North Carolina and us living here is that we don’t know his friends and their families. On Saturday night, the McFarlands and Cooks had a chance to meet the first girl with whom he shares a his-and-her Facebook status. Ironically, she is working as an intern this summer with the person who encouraged Jill to try musical theatre when she was a child.
On Sunday, after graduation, we finally met Nicholas’ prom date — a longtime friend from middle and high school — and her parents. Except, as I discovered, we sort of already knew each other.
As it turns out, her dad and I met more than 15 years ago in Reidsville, N.C., where he opened and owned a local Subway and I worked for the newspaper. Our paths crossed on a number of occasions, and as people tend to do, we talked about our families — his little girl and my little boy.
They’re not so little any more.
When it comes to escaping your past, you’d have a better chance of swimming to shore from Alcatraz than shedding the vestiges of a small town. That’s doubly true if you’ve lived in Texas or North Carolina.
Despite what I may have thought when I left, I have no desire to escape the places that brought me to this point, or wipe them from my memory. My heart always will always have a special place for Reidsville — a place I’ve written about before — and I know I can’t fully leave it behind.
I think about this often, and was reminded of it again while reading Jonathan Tropper’s The Book of Joe, a comic novel about a man who returns to the small town where he grew up and realizes that everyone hates him, just because he had written a bestselling, thinly veiled piece of fiction about his miserable high school experience.
Tropper’s self-deprecating, faintly absurdist style appeals to me — I truly wish I could write like that — and I have been slowly making my way through his other books, of which Everything Changes is one.
Sitting at the pool yesterday afternoon, I looked around at others in the crowd and felt somewhat nostalgic. I remember when the pool opened, and what a big deal it was for our fledgling subdivision. I remembered the lifeguard getting on Ben’s case for running, and hearing him say, “I’m not running, I’m skipping.”
Then, as I went to get something out of my car, I heard a slightly deep — though distinctly teenage — voice say hello. I turned and saw a young boy/man whom I barely recognized. He asked about Ben and politely reintroduced himself, and I realized he was part of a set of twins who we met when we first got here in 2001. All four kids, plus Kate, started in daycare together and now are teenagers.
That’s when the emotions hit me.
I told the young man goodbye and walked to my car, asking myself vaguely existential questions: Where did the time go? What happened to the last 10 years? Why did the time fly by in a blink?
There’s no easy answer to the last question, or a decent explanation for all the emotions attached. I’m still processing that one.