17 July 2012

go forth: part I

{girl friday, here. for the past 2 weeks it has felt like i have been drinking from a fire hydrant. so much love and adventure i can barely contain it all. here is my first of four shares of what we are affectionately referring to as our BIG FAT SOUTHERN ADVENTURE. i hope you like. xo}
he brought me to this family reunion 19 years ago. i was the first girl he had ever invited. the only girl who ever showed up on his arm. it was kind of a big deal for the youngest cousin who people referred to with a hand gesture that measured about 4 feet tall. "you're here with little michael?" if i live 59 more years i will never forget that first drive up the tree lined road. the mister pointed out, "like a runway". i married into a family of aviation adventurers. that first trip to harvest, alabama was wrought with curiosity and much anxiety. "who invites a near stranger to a family reunion?" i wondered. but this was not an average reunion. and i learned shortly upon arrival that i was instantly part of the family. a kissing cousin. and they kiss, y'all. on.the.lips. yeah.you get used to it.

when we married almost 17 years ago it was an unspoken vow we made that every july 3rd and 4th would be spent in a tiny town outside of huntsville, alabama with dozens of our family members. without exception. i have been there with a newborn. i have been there 9 months pregnant. some people marry a person despite their family. i married my Mister because of his. unique, amazing, interesting, curious and eccentric group of people who have lived lives and have stories that if i wrote them all down you would believe is a work of fiction.
superman billy received a
3 spark plugs award
the passing of the spatula: charlie cooks cousins' breakfast
of the 10 children who were born to omie lucille and benjamin thomas nearly 100 years ago, only 3 remain. charles, who resides in maine. pat who started epps aviation in atlanta and of course the man for whom our 4th son was named, george who generously rallies all of us together each year first for work camp, then the reunion. reuniting in harvest, alabama. harvest. what a fitting name for what i feel every time i am there. reaping a harvest: love, laughter, insight, pure bliss and overwhelming awe even after all these years. harvest. 
and uncle george is a gracious, gracious farmer of sorts. as were ginny, evelyn and ben jr, rosemond, john, harry and doug.
my boys' first plane ride was at this farm. cousin elaine took them up in an airplane called a bonanza. my second born rode shotgun and nearly passed out when she rolled the plane. do you know what that is? 
my oldest begins his countdown to the next work camp on july 5, usually as we are driving down that infamous tree lined road back to our home. not even living 14 hours away could keep us away.work camp. ah. even today we were reminiscing. the youngest members of the family {who are at least 8 years old} arrive at the farm about a week before the reunion to paint tires on the runway, dig dirt, mow the runway, or if they run out of jobs-move cinderblocks-just for the heck of it.
camping under the stars. building a tree house, zip lining and swimming are but a few of the perks to all the hard work. cousin bonding time is the top. and it is rich, friend. boy, it is rich. there's kitchen duty and laundry and cleaning bathrooms too. this cousin compound has a lot of upkeep and those infamous lined notebook paper lists that uncle george writes seem to never end. and you know what? the kids eat it up. they complain. and they love it. every year when the adults arrive for the dinner on the evening of the 3rd, we are greeted by sunburned, bug bitten, dazed eyed children who have not made curfew and who have been up way too late laughing. exhausted from just too much fun.
honorary epps: aka the vargasons
stephie zips on a line
many of our close friends have been cajoled to join us down there-at the family reunion. enjoying a hot balloon ride and an all you can eat buffet of popcorn, sno cones and cotton candy. this year one of our little friends, gus, had a tree planted in his memory. this is another long held epps family tradition. the tree planting ceremony for those we have lost during the year. this year we planted one for a 15 year old boy who even though wasn't kin, will be remembered as part of the family with his marker and tree that will be watered and tended to like the young souls who find refuge down on those hallowed acres every year, or whenever.
uncle george and his beloved bride
next year will be the 50th year reunion. fifty years of gathering together to celebrate, to cry, to laugh, to mourn, to tell tales, to bicker and banter, to enjoy all there is to this amazing life with these story tellers and life living adventurers we call family. and we will gather and try to soak up as much of each other as we can until we go forth into our lives that take us back to the pacific northwest, alaska, california, utah, florida, tennessee, north carolina, maine, georgia, arizona and of course maryland and hope that sometime during the year we can meet up with one another be it for an air show in oshkosh or a trip to the beach or perhaps a walk through the early aviators' section of the air and space museum in washington, dc to see granddaddy epps.xo

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