When I was a kid, my family didn’t take many vacations. We lived in West Tennessee near the cotton fields and river bottoms where my Dad was raised, but my mom grew up in the hills of North Eastern Alabama. So our vacations always (all but two) consisted of loading the station wagon and heading to Memphis, turning east down Highway 70 through Mississippi into Alabama, and on to Sand Mountain, to visit Mom’s “people”.
The aunt in the photo looks just like my mom, who passed away in 1996. My aunt’s house was always one of the fun places to visit on our treks to Alabama, because she had daughters. And she had several daughters who liked to mother me. I was always entertained, coddled, and cared for. I do have one or two embarrassing memories at my aunt’s house, but I try not to drag those out too often.
I liked to visit my aunt’s house because she always made my mom laugh. They laughed big and loud- and often! My mom was a rather serious person most of the time, but she really enjoyed going home to visit. My dad enjoyed going there as well, continuing to visit long after mom had died- he always thought mom would want him to keep up with “the Alabama families”. And now my aunt and my step-mom have become fast friends. Relationships are a beautiful thing!
When I first saw the photo on FaceBook, I thought it was an older photo of my mom and some of her family. As I read the caption and studied the photo, I recognized it to be my aunt and her girls. My aunt looks unbelievably like my mom did, with that silver-white hair and thin-framed glasses. All the women in the family have the high, distinct cheekbones that betray their Cherokee heritage. In the photo, the daughters have beautiful, dark hair that compliments those cheekbones- but since I have been married 22 years, I now know that I, too, can have that same hair color for about $12.50 and an hour or so.
As I look at the faces of the daughters, different memories come to mind; the Christmases, the pictures of their families and kids; Mom making my sisters and me play impromptu piano recitals for them; ginormous feasts at the home where my mom grew up, consuming vast amounts of fried foods and fresh vegetables. Of the five daughters, I can remember having crushes on at least three of them, even though they are all way older than me….
I see my aunt in the photo with her girls, and I also see a family held together with faith and love and hard work. I see smiles on every face; smiles that display the affection awarded only to those relationships found in a loving family. I see my mom, and wish I could make another family photo with her, seated in front of us, wearing a tiara, confirming the matriarch of the family is still here, still in charge. Still proud of her kids, as is my aunt, in the photo.
We haven’t been to Sand Mountain in long time. Maybe it’s time for me to head to Memphis, turn east down Highway 70 through Mississippi into Alabama, and on to Sand Mountain, to visit Mom’s “people”.
My mom would want me to keep up with her family.