Unexpected Blessings ~ Part II

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND

There have been many times in my life when my default mode has been “Out of sight, out of mind.”

When I transferred from public school to boarding school the beginning of 7th grade, it didn’t occur to me to let any of my classmates know, except my best friend Pete, who was two years ahead of me in school.

When I moved to take my first appointment as a pastor, moving from just three miles above the Maryland Line, to just about 25 minutes below the New York border, our immediate family knew about our move, and I had changed our address with the post office and other such places.

It it had not occurred to me to send my contact information to family who had become emotionally distant. In both sides of my family, there are levels or generations of cousins. The only cousin I had been close to as a teen, I had not seen or heard from in years. Even though we had some good memories of our youth and teen age years, the contacts seemed to fade into thin air.

Picture of a boy and a girl leaning against opposite sides of a tree,      
 with white cottages in the background.
My cousin Phil, and me.

As far as I know, there were no Marcellino family reunions. In my mother’s side of the family, reunions were weddings, funerals or religious celebrations involving one of the nuns or priests in the family.

Even in my husband’s family, the impetus to gather in reunions seemed to die off with the oldest generation and their children. Each year, the annual reunions were attended by fewer people and lasted fewer hours.

I did not send my address to a high school reunion committee, because I was not in touch with any classmates. It may have been difficult for them to keep up with my/our moves anyway. It is no wonder that they assumed that I was no longer among the living.

All of which to say, when I found out I could return to my hometown, Onset, Massachusetts for an entire week, it was without any expectation of visits, except for visits to the beach, visits to the canal, visits to the site of my former homes.

I was grateful for this opportunity and wanted to make the most of every minute. When we had visited in 2018, I had gotten a hotel about 25 minutes out of town. This time, I wanted to be much closer.

The trip felt like an extravagant gesture to begin with, I wanted to be cautious on the dollar side. I was willing to stay in a hotel, although there were a few reasons why I preferred some place with a kitchen.

I did want to eat out, preferably a few seafood dinners. But that also meant doing breakfast and lunch on the cheap and not fast food. Once the possibility of spending a week in Onset looked like it could happen, I began to search for a place to stay.

The U.V. Apartments
The former Union Villa, now The U.V.

I had been offered a beach house at an amazingly generous rate; but it was twice as much as my conscience would allow. Then a friend suggested that I try Airbnb, and that proved to be my best bet. It was the perfect combination of price and proximity.

I suppose that was my first unexpected blessing, finding the right place at the right price for the time I needed.

FAMILY QUESTIONS

Once I had finally settled on a place to stay and had reservations, I could turn my attention to preparing in earnest for this adventure. My dad had never talked very much about his family. I knew some details.

As I was getting ready for the trip, I realized that I did not know or remember what my father’s birth order was, or when and where my grandparents had met and married.

Picture of a tall man with a hat, a short woman and another man (my grandparents and my dad)
My grandparents, (Anibal, Mary) and my dad, July 1942

My grandmother was born and raised in Lisbon, Portugal and came to the United States sometime in the late 1800’s, or not later than 1901. It would have been interesting to hear the story from her, what it was like to travel alone on a boat from Lisbon, Portugal to Fall River, Massachusetts. But I never asked, and not unlike my father, she did not talk about it.

Now and then she would talk about “the Old Country.” But not about herself or her life.

So, I called my brother to ask these questions. He is very knowledgeable about family stories, because he has done the research. He had really invested time and probably funds, in Ancestry.com and other searches.

But when he would talk about these things, I tried to listen attentively, but I confess my eyes glazed over now and then. I feel awful saying that, but it is true.

He would talk about people I had never heard of; John, Jake, some relatives I knew about and remembered, others, not so much. This time, when I called, he said, ‘You should really talk to your cousin Gina. She lives in Mashpee, on the Cape!

My response was articulate. I think I said, “My what, who, where?” “Cousin Gina, Uncle John’s granddaughter.” he replied. “Uncle who?” was the best I could muster.

I wanted to reach out, and I did, but it took me a while to figure out how? I could not figure out how I could tell them that I did not know their Grandfather, or their father existed. It felt rude! Simply put, Uncle John died before I was born, and with a father who did not tell stories about his family or life, I had no idea.

COUSINS

They were not offended, and were as happy as I was to discover new family. When I gave them my travel dates, we made plans to meet.

As it turned out, they were also in touch with other granddaughters of some of my dad’s sisters. Just before arriving in Onset, when we had set our meeting place, they told me another cousin would be joining us.

The more, the merrier. More people I did not know existed! Although I had vague recollections of their grandmothers. Then one of the “new” to me cousins was bringing her sister, and they were in touch with other cousins from another aunt.

Our gathering, which I described in another post, was a long leisurely lunch, that spilled over into an amazing day. We walked all over the cemetery where my parents and grandparents (their great-grandparents) were buried, searching for their graves.

I took them to see the site where our grandparents’/great-grandparents’ home was and the two homes where I grew up. We hugged, laughed, cried. I cried a lot. There is a Bible quote from Jeremiah about mourning, “O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears! (Jeremiah 9:1). That day, that was me. The tears came unbidden, but so did the joy.

Picture of some cottages on a sunny day.
Renovated Cottages, Photo Courtesy of Angela Shwom

In the company of my cousins, I felt a balm for my soul, that filled in the empty places that I hadn’t realized were there. I had family of my own. This was a blessing I could not have anticipated.

Although my in-laws (both sets) had been welcoming enough, after my mother died, I felt like an orphan. I felt as though I did not have family, beyond my children and husband, and of course my brother. In that one day, in the presence of these women who had been strangers, but were at once family, I felt like something had been restored.

CLASSMATES
Just before leaving town from our 2 day visit in 2018, I came across the contact information for a high school classmate. We talked for a long time. She told me that our 50th class reunion was scheduled for 10 days later.

I was tempted to get home to Pennsylvania, and turn around and go back, but really, that was a first conversation with her in 10 years. With no contact with anyone else in the class in almost 50 years, it would not have been totally genuine on my part. I had only been part of this class for the last two years.

Nevertheless, she put me in touch with other classmates, through Facebook and I was added to the Class of 1968 Facebook page. I learned a lot about the class members in the year that followed through personal and group Facebook posts and interactions.

I found them to be caring, compassionate and to have a deep love for their communities, including the beaches and the canal. Perhaps because a group put so much planning an effort into the 50th reunion, or maybe they already had it, they displayed a deep appreciation for the gift of life and for each other.

The following year, when they found out I was going to be in town, one of my classmates took the lead in planning a get together, because I was going to be there. Now, I believe the sincerity of that plan and was both excited and honored. But I also think, this is a group that enjoys getting together.

I went to the dinner without great expectations, hoping for some good seafood and some pleasant conversation. But I came away with more than that. I came away with a sense of renewed friendship, a surprising new friendship, a feeling of belonging, or acceptance, and the hope of more visits and continued contact.

There were other opportunities that week for some one-on-one, in person visits. I had plenty of time to walk on the beach, to write and reflect. But if I say more, this post will become a book. Everything about this trip home was more than I could have asked for, or imagined. Perhaps hoped for, but filled with unexpected blessings and grace.

Every day, when I am smart enough to pray, I thank God for the family and friends who nurture and enrich my life. I thank God too, for cousins, and classmates, and the time to simply be.

I am just a vintage chic on a journey of discovery and I am

Not holding back the tide.

Michele

Copyright 2020 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

23 thoughts on “Unexpected Blessings ~ Part II

  1. I love reading about your reunions – both classmates and family. My response probably would have been tears too. I have been visiting Pocasett since the 1960s. I believe that is quite close to Mashpee. My sister’s in-laws owned a cottage there, right on the bay, that she and my brother-in-law inherited. My parents and I visited frequently. Last summer, we celebrated the 4th of July there with family. I look forward to seafood dinners on the Cape too!

    I have not seen my high school friends in years but I am FB friends with some classmates. The classmates I am in touch with now are not the kids I hung out with when I was in school, and they seem like a bigoted, hateful bunch. I don’t really care to see their posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much Laurie. I had forgotten about your Pocassett connection. Two of my cousins that live in Mashpee are Wampanoag (and Portuguese). I want to write in more detail about the Canal, but want to do some research first. hoping to spend some time at the CCC Visitor Center next time around. I took a huge leap of faith and made reservations for the same apartment I had last near, even though we don’t know what COVID-19 is doing or going to do. I just felt that I needed to make reservations and have that to look forward to. I have been pretty impressed with the classmates that I am in contact with. Some I did not really remember. The moderator for the group has surprised me by sending out a message to the group to check on everyone’s well being and folks have really responded. As to negativity and hateful posts, I truly understand. The political climate that we are in is horrendous and so much of what I see on FB is polarizing, judgmental, all or nothing. I don’t want to see that either. I joked about wanting to eat seafood every night, but I have pretty cheap genes. Next time, if the trip works out, I may try for at least 4 out of 7 seafood meals. I keep seeing mouthwatering local from Onset seafood on FB and want to jump in my car and go! Have a good and safe 4th.

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  2. Hi Michele, this post warmed my heart. How lovely to meet family and feel a ‘belonging’ once again. I also reconnected with some family a couple of years ago and I know how good it feels. As for classmates, I was contacted a few years ago by a girl I spent 2 years with in high school at the beginning of the 80s who I thought at the time hated me (no reason, just thought that she didn’t care for me). She reached out and said that she’d thought of me a lot over the years and wanted to know that I was ok. It was a huge shock and we’re now very good friends, although as we live in different countries we haven’t had a chance to get together. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheryl thank you so much. Thanks for taking the time to rea it and comment too. Hard to say what was more surprising, family or classmates. I hve hopes of a return trip, depending on what COVID-19 does, Hope all is well with you both. Michele

      P.S. I am also glad that you have similar experiences. Great blessings to connect with family and friends.

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  3. This story warmed my heart – and at the moment that’s a very good thing. I’m not surprised there were many tears mixed together with the joy. #MLSTL

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    1. Jo, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Yes, it is a good thing. We are surrounded by so much negativity and I find myself torn. To write or not to write, to address the mess in our culture, or to keep it focused differently. Blessings for the journey and thanks again. #MLSTL Michele

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lot you packed in there, Michele, in every sense … it’s interesting your grandmother and father didn’t seem to encourage family explorations. I admit, especially as a child, I didn’t pursue family ancestry or anything like that much, as I felt we were run of the mill, and not worth exploring! The arrogance of youth, eh? Well, we are mostly run of the mill, but experience has showed me that run of the mill can be anything but run of the mill! This Covid business has really showed up the value of close friends, and hw much you miss face to face, real contact/. Also losing a very good friend has deepened that feeling of the transience of this life, and the need to let go the small stuff and appreciate the good more. #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Enda, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this post. I think part of the lost family history was not being knowledgeable enough or interested enough to ask the questions or ask the right questions. And I think a family feud was part of the distancing. Really grateful for the cousins! Even though Social Media has provided many contact points for us in the midst of COVID-19, it hasn’t diminished our need or desire for human contact. It sounds as though your friend’s death was very recent. May memories comfort you. So glad to connect here on #MLSTL Michele

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure, Michele. It was a great post. She died last saturday … expected to last longer, but quick in the end. Thanks your your condolences

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  5. Hi Michele – I’m so glad it all went well for you and that you had such wonderful times with family and friends. How lovely to rediscover them and to find all those connections. It also caught my eye that both you and Anne (from Anne’s Happy Clues) mentioned boarding school in your MLSTL posts – it’s the first time boarding school has come up and to have it mentioned twice was quite a coincidence.
    #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Leanne, I noticed that too. I had read her post just a bit ago! The connection with family and friends has deepened my sense of gratitude. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. #MLSTL Michele

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  6. Hi Michele, isn’t it wonderful when an event with uncertain expectations becomes such a treasured event? Thanks so much for sharing this experience with us, it was a joy to read. #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Michele, I followed your story very closely. I too, don’t have connections with any of my cousins nor my grade school/high school classmates except one. I don’t even have the excuse of only 2 years there. I was in the same house for my first 17 years. My husband is emotionally distant from his family… and we still (currently) live in the same town with many of them! I guess I’m a bit envious of your outcome – the feelings of connection and belonging. It’s heart-warming to hear. I don’t expect the same for me with people from my past. I am hoping to find a sense of belonging in our new hometown.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pat, thank you for taking the time to comment. I certainly understand. I too have distant family. My husband is fairly close to his family but is a loner. I love my brother, and always will. We talk on the phone usually only once a year, this year, we really hit it and ended up talking 4 times. We haven’t seen each other since our mom’s funeral in 1994. I have friends who know me better, and I know that the things that are good memories for me, are not so much for him. Sometimes your family is the group you were born into, but sometimes it is the heart connections you make with friends that enable you to form family. I hope you find that sense of belonging. Thank you for sharing wht you did, there is certainly a vulnerability to this business of blogging. But without our vulnerability, at least some, would we have as much to share? Blessings, Michele

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A heart-warming post, Michele. I’m glad your reunions with family and classmates turned out better than you expected and now you have these renewed connections. Thanks for sharing your story with us. #MLSTL

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  9. Thank you very much. It was pretty overwhelming, I think I walked around on a cloud for a few months, trying to absorb it all and process it. Hoping to go back this year, depending on what COVID-19 is doing. #MLSTL Michele

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  10. I had a somewhat similar experience going back to a 30th high school reunion. I hadn’t been to any of them before, so I was concerned I wouldn’t “connect” with anyone. But I found everyone so welcoming. We laughed over old stories and current everyday things. And yes, those FB groups are a great way to stay in touch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jennifer, I am glad that your experience was positive too. We live far away from family, so I rely on FB for contact as well. Nothing beats those pictures and videos of the grands! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this post. #MLSTL <Michele

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  11. Michelle I am so glad you had an opportunity to connect with some family members and old friends. There is a shared history there and someone our real selves know it and know them in ways that we can’t quite explain. I was recently contacted by my grandfather’s brother’s grandson who lives in Germany, asking for family information. I was happy to talk with him and will look forward to sharing the geneaology I have and finding out what he has. Once I visited my great, great grandfathers burial place in northern Maine. I new nothing about him except his name, but I was moved to tears. These are the ties that bind us together with those who came before us.

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  12. How lovely for you Michele to reconnect with family and school friends. About 3 years ago I went to a 40 year High School reunion. I had lost touch with everyone from my past for personal reasons and it was wonderful to reconnect with old friends and also form connections with classmates I had never been friends with at school. Very special times for you and thank you for sharing at #MLSTL.x

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  13. I am glad that you had a positive experience Sue. I think part of it is that so much changes as we get older and we have more in common than we did in high school. We have lived through love and loss, growth and sorrow. As always, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. #MLSTL

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