In which we drive through 12 states, more than 2,500 miles, met friends and family, and see a huge part of this beautiful country of ours that I’d never seen before.
My paternal grandfather, William Addison Scott Jr, was born in Kentucky, though he moved to Winchester, Illinois where he met and married my grandmother and they raised their 7 kids, of which my dad was the third son. This family reunion was a gathering of descendants of my great grandparents, William Addison Sr and Leora Spaulding Scott of Morganfield Kentucky. Some of my dad’s siblings, one of my first cousins, all of my siblings, and a bunch of my dad’s cousins and their kids and grandkids. (Though not so many kids, as this was after the start of the school year.)
We decided to make a long road trip of it, visiting friends along the way and Dom’s alma mater, Franciscan University.
Tuesday September 11
We woke in the dead of night, only a couple of hours after I’d finally dropped into bed, mostly satisfied with the preparations for departure. Scrambling about to not forget everything, loading children and last minute bags into the car in the pouring rain, passing round cups of milk and muffins and gulping down my final mug of tea.
It poured as we drove through the dark and into the dawn, I mostly dozed, waking and sleeping, missing the dawn, though Sophie says she saw it.
I barely remember long stretches of Connecticut, the bridge over the Hudson with the strange name that I looked up and found that it was named after a former governor and Secretary of State. We listened to the final chapters of Swallows and Amazons, which we’d started on our camping trip to Acadia this summer.
Pennsylvania was pleasant, it somehow felt larger than I expected. Open. Green. The weather cleared up to just random drizzles by then and then patches of sun. I dozed as we listened to our audiobook and woke to enjoy the scenery and then dozed again. Being in the car always makes me sleepy and unless I’m the driver audiobooks put me to sleep. I think I need something to do with my hands.
We stopped at a lovely little rest area where there was a huge stuffed bear, a bunch of potted plants, and, outside the huge windows, a stand of sunflowers where goldfinches were feeding. We saw two pairs, each consisting of a parent and a fledgling who kept demanding that the parent feed it. Bella was enchanted.
I took over driving for the last couple of hours into Pittsburgh as Dom was getting very sleepy. Horrid traffic, it took almost half an hour to get off the highway, lots of narrow scary roads up steep hills, hairpin turns, in decaying neighborhoods, with lots of closed roads.
But the Chapman home was an oasis of calm and peace and beauty. Very classy, yet welcoming, a home meant to be lived in and very child-friendly while also looking like it should be featured in the pages of a magazine. Emily and Chris were very welcoming, and best of all had a bottomless dress-up box for the kids to dive into.
The children made themselves at home almost immediately, and once they’d tried on a bunch of costumes they dove into a game in which they were in France in the second World War and the two guest rooms became apartments, Bella was a German officer, and someone— maybe Ben or Sophie?— was an underdiver, a member of the French resistance hiding undercover. Clearly Hilda Van Stockum’s Winged Watchman and Borrowed House have made an impression.
I got to snuggle baby Toby and we got takeout and chatted both before dinner and after the children were in bed. There was some squabbling about the beds among the children, who were tired after a long day. Bedtime is when my own temper frays and I am not very gracious as a mother. Sigh. But on the whole the trip got off to a very good start.
Wednesday September 12
Day Two was quieter. After a lovely breakfast on the Chapman’s deck we took our leave and headed west only an hour to Steubenville, Ohio. We crossed through a corner of West Virginia on our way and then across the Ohio river, lined with coal and steel plants. In Steubenville we toured the Franciscan University campus with Dom as our guide, indulging his combined nostalgia and surprise at how much things had changed in the past 20 years. We visited two chapels, peeked at the library, several courtyards, a snack at the commons. And then a visit to the bookstore where Dom acquired some shirts and the kids got some saint medal bracelets and a bunch of books. The college students don’t look very much different than I remember from my own college days more than twenty years ago.
We had lunch at Bob Evans— Anthony and Ben discovering the joy of pancake lunch. Then we quiet afternoon with Dom’s friend Noelle, who is originally from Worcester, MA, went to FUS with Dom, and now lives in Steubenville again and is working to open a Montessori school there. The kids played with her dog, Macy, and with the charming toddler she watches.
We had dinner at the famous Drover’s, a country inn which we reached via a lovely drive into the West Virginia Hills. The hot wings quite good and the company very good as well. We didn’t stay up too late talking with our hosts, but we did enjoy the conversation very much.
Thursday September 13
Further west and deeper into Ohio. First rolling hills, then heading into farm country. Fields of corn and soybeans. So much green. This part of the world is beautiful. Delaware is a very cute town. Our friends the Hodges have a very comfortable old home— late 1800s renovated in the 20s to faux-Tudor— with all sorts of delightful nooks and crannies. The kids made fast friends with the Hodge kids— I knew they would— and were soon playing pictionary type games and watching comedy sketches and playing hide and seek. Bella and Sophie really hit it off with Julia and Isabel and later Elanor when she returned from a trip. Lucy latched on to Diana and followed her around. We had a lovely dinner of pulled pork burritos and stayed up far too late chatting.
Friday September 14
It was hard for all of us to leave such good company. Bella and Sophie wanted more time with their new friends, Ben and Anthony had to be pried away from an energetic sword and lightsaber and nerf gun fight with Jack and William. But the Scott family reunion in Kentucky was calling us and we wanted to arrive with plenty of time to unpack before the family dinner at the lakeside lodge.
After our fond farewell with a curbside conversation that didn’t want to end, we headed West to Cincinnati and then south across the broad Ohio (which we’d last crossed going into Ohio from West Virginia) and into Kentucky. A long day of driving.
We stopped for groceries at a super Walmart in Hopkinsville and then headed to the lake resort, passing my parents and sister on the way— they were also headed to the same walmart.
Our cabin, shared with my mom and dad and my sister, was a nice change of pace after visiting with friends for three night. And the children ran and ran and ran around and around and around. My Uncle David and Aunt Vickie and cousin Kathryn and her husband Johnny had the cabin across the street. I loved the Audubon prints on the walls in our cabin, there were lovely birds in the bedrooms and in the living room and dining area. Much higher class art than I’m used to in hotels and lodgings. The lake lodge also had a bunch of birds’ nests and stuffed animals on display, but we did’t get to linger over those as long as my naturalists and I would have liked since socialization was the focus of this part of the trip.
Dinner was at the lodge restaurant, which had a limited menu of fried food and sandwiches, but had a gigantic buffet. Most of the kids ordered off the menu, but we got the buffet and it included amazing fried catfish and hush puppies as well as a bunch of other entree choices, an abundant salad bar, and lots of desserts. We were a bit overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of Scotts there— the reunion was for descendants of my great grandparents, so in addition to my immediate family and some of my aunts and uncles it included a lot of distant cousins. I didn’t get to meet everyone, but we were greeted warmly. It was especially fun to finally meet a bunch of my dad’s cousins that I’ve got to know on Facebook.
We didn’t stay late because the children needed to be put to bed and we were tired too. Bedtimes for the kids got later and later as the trip went on and mealtimes more irregular. They all had sniffles too, I think Anthony started off the trip with a cold and we passed it around as we went. But they were generally pretty good troupers and there weren’t any too-dramatic meltdowns as a result of the schedule.
Saturday September 15
Saturday was the reunion proper. We made a slow start as nothing was really supposed to happen until a potluck at noon. The kids ran around. Dom and my mother went to the store.
It was very hot. The potluck lunch at the pavilion, was sweltering. We had plenty of good food, though. A couple pots of pulled pork, also crock pots with macaroni and cheese, and baked beans. Salads, including an amazing slaw. Lots of chips and salsa and dips. And plenty of desserts. One of my dad’s cousins had brought a bunch of games. The kids and I played with the giant jenga set and everyone watched and admired how cool and thoughtful the kids were. But the game was set up in the sun so after one round everyone gave up to go sit in the shade.
A bunch of relatives had photos and there was a slideshow on someone’s laptop, but I didn’t stop to look. I regret not taking the time. And not talking to more people. It was just so hot and I was feeling shy and awkward. I needed another couple of days to warm up to people and then I’d have been a social butterfly. Sadly, time was too short. But in another sense just _being there_ was really lovely. Being face to face and in the presence of family… I don’t know it makes me feel rooted, belonging. My dad doesn’t see much point in it— I don’t know half these people, he grumbled. But I remember how my grandmother used to look out over her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and exclaim: we started all this! Addison and I! We started all this! And I wonder if my great grandmother, Addison’s mother might have exclaimed the same looking at this crowd of people, and they weren’t even the half of it. We are made for family, for connection. And there is something about seeing the same facial features repeated in different combinations, a distant cousin who looked so like Bella that her grandmother was momentarily confused, a cousin whose childhood photo looks the spitting image of me as a child. I am a Scott. These are my people. I wish I knew them better, but this… this, too, is a foretaste of heaven.
After everyone had eaten their fill, most of the party decamped to poolside. where they could sit in the shade or swim and retreat to the AC when it got too sweltering. It was definitely cooler there than at the pavilion. We went back to the cabin to get into swim suits and might have lingered just a bit, needing a transition time. Then Dom took the kids swimming while I chatted and visited some more and mainly listened to conversations. I did go to put my feet in the pool after a bit, plopping down next to my cousin Kathryn and my Aunt Vickie and Aunt Mary. My brother Tim came and sat with us a bit too and we watched the kids playing and chatted about his and that.
Dinner again at the lodge with my mom and brothers (my dad and sister weren’t feeling good) as the sun set over the lake. Then farewells to the rest of the family who came in right before we left. Bella wanted to linger over the lodge’s collection of birds nests and stuffed animals, I regret not taking more time there, but we had so little time to visit with family.