It's A Family Affair...

Just because Katherine left on Thursday didn't mean my vacation was over; instead, Justin and I packed up the car for a leisurely drive to the exotic, glamorous destination of White Hall. In addition to Christmas, the Wyatt clan also gathers over Memorial Day weekend at Grandma's house, and although I usually don't attend that particular event, this year I thought it would provide a nice opportunity for my family to meet Justin. I figured we'll each want to spend Christmas with our own families, so that was out of the question, but luckily for me, his family doesn't have an annual Memorial Day cookout or anything like that, so he was free to accompany me and meet the Wyatts.

After my aunts and cousins gave me no small amount of crap these past seven months about when I'd bring him downstate, I decided to kill many birds with one stone and bring him by when they'd all be in one place, including the Iowa contingent and my cousin Jenny, who lives in Las Vegas and seldom makes it back for visits. Justin would have the opportunity to meet more of my mom's family than even I usually see at the average family get-together.

Since the family is growing by leaps and bounds every year, there was no room for us to stay at Grandma's, so Justin and I ended up getting a room at the luxurious Comfort Inn in Jacksonville, about a half hour away. On the plus side, there was a free breakfast every morning, if you were willing to wait out the easily 600 pound man lording over the waffle iron as if it were his own private domain. On the negative side, the hotel was host to the participants in a Little League baseball tournament, and the place was teeming with running, screaming children. At least, as Justin pointed out, we were together.

I filled our schedule for the weekend with experiences typical for the region. We ate giant fried pork tenderloin sandwiches, which Justin likened to the enormous wiener schnitzel found in Austria, albeit on a seriously undersized bun. I took him down to Kampsville, Illinois, via the Kampsville ferry, where we consumed enough onion rings and catfish fritters to meet our quota of fried food for the rest of the year. We drove around the small towns of the area on a photographic odyssey to capture the decay and poverty of the region, taking in the collapsing homes and barns, empty, rusting boxcars, and crumbling small businesses. Most of the time, I think Justin was probably bored/suffering from indigestion from all the fried food he's not accustomed to eating regularly (and that's a good thing), but he was a trooper, and was very polite about the whole experience.

Most of the time though, we spend time hanging out with Grandma and the rest of the Wyatt clan. I got to meet my new, baby cousin Charlee, and chat with all my cousins. Justin displayed a truly amazing talent for remember names and family relationships, and was able to complete a family tree of all of us by the end of his first day meeting them all. It meant a lot to me that he put so much effort into meeting and remembering everyone.

Justin and I, in Grandma's living room.

My generation. Top row, from left: Matt, Danielle, and Jenny. Bottom row, from left: Me, Nicki, Trista, and Aimee. We haven't all been in a photo together since the 1990s, I think, so this is sort of a big deal.

The next generation, from left: Jalen, Avery, Braden, Madelyn, Charlee, Will, Mya, Ben, and Abbie.

As always, it was good to see everyone, and kind of scary to see how much all the kids are growing even after only a few months. I seriously don't know how their parents handle it. I remember when I was that age, running around playing with my cousins at Grandma's house, and while I'm glad that they get to have that same experience, it makes me feel very, very old.

It may not have been the most exciting way for Justin and I to spend our first actual vacation together, but I was so proud to get a chance to show him off in person to all my family, instead of just here on my blog. I was relieved to discover that we travel well together, and I'm more excited now than ever for all the adventures we'll have together going forward, and all the interesting places we'll get to see and explore.

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