On the plane to Philadelphia I got halfway through Metropolitan Anthony Bloom’s God and Man. It helped to calm my jitters that had developed since the initial excitement and decision to go to my last remaining aunt’s memorial service. I was about to arrive at an event and to enter a house and family where every person was a stranger.
Eeek! What was I getting into? Metropolitan Anthony encouraged me with words about love and life, and before I knew it a first cousin once-removed was hugging me at the airport and driving me to a houseful of other huggers and gracious people. I stayed up with them later and later every night sharing stories of our grandparents and parents, digging up memories and laughing with happiness over all the many connections we have by way of genetics and family traditions.
The realities of The Kingdom I had been reading about are certainly pertinent to the activity in my heart last weekend, but I’m still debriefing myself about what happened. I may never figure it out enough to put it down in words, but it was exciting and glorious.
What I am able to do is share some photographic images of the little bit of Philadelphia I experienced. Cousin #1 put me in The Nursery at her house, which is decorated in the most comforting and cozy way, with pictures of the Teddy Bears having their picnic, and Babar, and more pictures and items that probably helped me feel that I was falling asleep with the Sandman’s help as when I was a child. Stuffed animals sat around on the stuffed chair and on the extra bed, and green leaves were painted on the creamy yellow wood floor.
In the kitchen Revere Ware pots had been hung on the wall – hey! just the way Grandfather used to do! – and science “experiments” I won’t describe sat on a shelf all ready for the grandchildren, my first cousins twice-removed. Flowers filled the air with sweetness – We would soon load them in the back of the car to drive to the memorial service and reception.
See that orange towel on the kitchen counter above? I brought it with its citrus-y design as a gift to remind my cousin of the boxes of oranges my father sent across the country to their family every Christmas in bygone days.
Out back, raised beds were awaiting spring planting, and pussy willows budded right off the kitchen porch. I sat on the steps going down to the garden to talk on the phone to Mr. Glad who was still back in California missing me.
The morning of the memorial service we walked a block to the train station to meet daughter Kate who had come from D.C. to be with me. She had never even met her great-aunt whose life we were honoring that day, but she was happy to get acquainted with the cousins, and she slept in The Nursery in the bed next to me.
One night Cousin #3 cooked dinner for the two of us at her place, a very “vertical” row house in South Philly, narrow and rising five levels. She honored the first owners with a photo on the wall showing a very sober and Italian wedding party featuring the bride-and-groom owners. It’s a pretty old house of the sort that has (newly refurbished) rosettes on the ceiling in some rooms.
All the long weekend, all the folk I met were amazed at how much I resemble my late aunt; the cousins in our branch of the family haven’t been together in a long time, and for most of their lives they had been daily surrounded by people related to my aunt’s former husband. I was happy to provide a facial link to her instead. We pored over all the old photos we had assembled, staring at the faces as though trying to penetrate the souls of our ancestors to understand who we are.
I woke up the morning of my departure to see the ground all white, and snow falling. The birds arrived at the feeders, and I even saw a female Cardinal for the first time. I’ve never lived where this classic red bird does.
After I was dropped at the airport, I wandered around waiting for a flight that was delayed for weather, and wondered at how fast I had made a fast friend of my cousin. Someone told me before I set off on my adventure that a cousin is sort of like a sister, but better in that you don’t have the tension that can happen between siblings.
So it seems at this point, and I’m grateful for the gifts of God. He is everywhere, of course, even in the middle of a bunch of strangers. We don’t have any love that doesn’t come from Him. But that provides plenty.