Off to a shindig, looking forward to meeting my family
Very much looking forward to this weekend. This afternoon we head to Maryland for the wedding of Anna and Riccardo. Anna is my 20-something-year-old cousin and Riccardo is the nice Italian young man she met while studying abroad. I’ve never met Riccardo. Heck, I can probably count on two hands the times I’ve actually seen my cousin Anna. Now back in the states, they have settled in Brooklyn.
Here’s the thing about my family. What we lack in size, we more than make up for in geographic dispersion. Our family tree is actually very simple. Both sets of grandparents had two kids. All their kids had two kids. You don’t have do be in CSI Pittsburgh to recognize a pattern here. Thus, I have four cousins — two on my mom’s side (in their 50s) and two on my dad’s side (in their 20s). This is because my mom’s brother was two year older and my dad’s sister is twelve years his junior. Thus, the wide gap in age between the two sets of cousins. Are you keeping up? I’ll wait for you to go and get paper and pencil.
(Hold Music: “Girl from Impanema”)
Back? Okay. Over the years, my easily contained family has married into some larger and more diverse broods. My two younger cousins have two half-sisters who are raising families in the South Pacific — Thailand and Cambodia. They also have aunts and uncles who settled in Ireland. This week, they are all coming together in the sleepy little hamlet of Burkittsville, Maryland. Oh, and of course we will also be joined by all of Riccardo’s relatives from Bologna, Italy. I hope they have those translator headphones, like at the U.N.
Burkittsville itself is a quaint little place. It is literally the intersection of two roads. A few shops, homes, and farms stretch out about a quarter mile in the four directions from this intersection. That’s it. That’s the town. The 2010 census pegs the town’s population at 151. It is most famous for being the setting for The Blair Witch Project several years ago. In truth, the only part of the movie that was filmed there was of the town sign above. The rest of it was filmed in a forest preserve somewhere else. But for several years, that fact didn’t keep the ghost-seeking college kids away. I bet they were disappointed… and drunk.
My Aunt Cathy and Uncle Charles live in The Tannery, a Civil War-era tannery that they had restored years ago. Abraham Lincoln is said to have enjoyed a piece of pie or lemonade or sports drink or something on the porch of the house next door. It is only a short hike over the mountain from the Antietam National Battlefield. Southern troops marched right through town on their way to the battle, so a lot of memorabilia has been dug up around the area. The wedding will be outdoors by a gorgeous fishing pond in the acres behind The Tannery. The weather looks good. I was a little concerned about Isaac coming up the coast from Florida, but since it went West, Maryland will be spared.
Since Burkittsville has no accommodations, most of the wedding guests will be staying at a hotel in Shepherdstown, WV. Never been there either, but I love these little Civil War-era towns and am looking forward to exploring.
This is going to be a strange and marvelous time to get to know family members I really don’t know that well. Many I’ve only met once, decades ago, or not at all. At least we get to do this a festive occasion and not someone’s funeral. I imagine it will be like a strange combination of speed dating and a family reunion. Weird, but also wonderful.
I’m especially looking forward to getting to know my two cousins, Anna (Riccardo, too) and Bennett as adults. Like I said, they are in their 20s. They both spent their college years in far-flung states and countries. I haven’t seen them at all since they were children. And, hey, it never hurts to have friends and family in places like Italy, Ireland, Thailand, Cambodia, Brooklyn, and Burkittsville.
Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend! I hope to have great tales to tell next week. Ciao! ไปก่อน! (That’s good-bye in Thai, not a computer virus)