We have been road trip warriors this spring with a 3,500 mile tour of the South and a trip to Northwestern Missouri to visit family only three weeks later. I confess, I had mixed feelings about the latter trip because I knew it would be busy, if not chaotic.
Five generations gathered in St. Joseph, Missouri, including my parents, brother, Patty and I, our kids, grand kids, and great grand kids. St. Joseph is where we are from and where our children were born. We have been gone about thirty-two years, but still visit family there regularly. St. Joe (Joe town) is replete with history. It is where The Pony Express began and Jessie James ended.
It was an outfitting town for the western-bound pioneers of the 1840’s through the 1860’s. By the turn of the century, it was a huge distribution center, progressive with its electric street cars and majestic buildings, but it never reclaimed those glory days and settled in with a population of seventy to eighty thousand.
It seems like Joe town has suffered from generations of non-visionary leadership, as the downtown turned into a permanent ghost town and beautiful Victorian homes were left in disrepair. The older parts of town seem to be ignored while everything continues to grow out east away from the Missouri River.
While we cringe at seeing the old St. Joe crumble and the poverty rate rise, it is still seems very familiar and comfortable to us. We always notice how congenial the people are there. It is just way more laid back and friendly than life in Chicagoland.
This trip we were delighted to run onto an old friend from over thirty years ago as we were leaving Wal-Mart. That’s what happens in St. Joe. All of these years later, I still feel, in some way, more anchored there than here.
My Parents still live there. Our brothers live there and most of our extended family lives in or near St. Joe.
Since, my parents are in their eighties, we wanted to get the whole family together and let them meet their Great-Great-Grand babies. My daughter and her family came down from St. Paul. My son and his family, who live nearby, had been visiting my daughter-in-law’s family in Lafayette, Louisiana. So, they had a lot of road time.
On Memorial Day, in sweltering Midwestern heat and humidity, we had a picnic in the courtyard at my parents’ apartment complex. On Saturday, we all ate at my favorite Mexican restaurant where I have been eating the same thing for thirty-nine years.
The real point of this post is trying to relate an extremely proud and emotional feeling that came over me as I watched all of these family members converge on St. Joe and share my heritage. Even now, as I think about it, I am filled with the teary-eyed awesomeness of it all.
We were able to visit with two awesome uncles, both near ninety, both filled with life and humor, with a twinkle in their eyes, and awesome stories.
There is poignancy in seeing this vast span of humanity, all them my family, innocent babies and elder faces, both smiling ear-to-ear as they interact. I am at a loss to at using words to adequately explain it, but I can tell you, I feel very, very blessed!