As we neared Atlanta, we became one fish in a school of thousands gliding o’er the surface of an eight-lane asphalt sea. We arrived at Uncle John and Aunt Rita’s house in time for hot homemade soup and bread. I submit that there is nothing like greeting a weary traveler with hot soup, for he will immediately feel as though he owes you his life and one million dollars. It was our first time there, on account of living on the exact opposite, kitty-corner end of the country, and it soon became clear that we've been missing a lot! Their home is just beautiful. They have traveled extensively and they took interesting military assignments like the Philippines, where my two cousins were born, and Ecuador. So their home is a collection of the authentic goods that inspire Pier 1 art, and they display it very comfortably and approachably – even the headhunter backpack, which sports a lovely head-sized pocket, "a must-have for this season’s fashions."
My sweet and adorable cousin, Heather, took us ‘round to some classic Atlanta sites, including a hike up Stone Mountain. Here she and Jason are searching for good pieces of gum off the gum pole.
We watched a short movie at Stone Mountain on Civil War battles that took place in the area, and it was weird to consider the Confederates as the good guys, or rather try and consider, aided by the fluffy, interpretive gobblygook they say at the end of all films constructed by the government. I couldn’t quite make the switchover in my imagination, even when Heather stood up afterwards and yelled “The South will rise again!” Okay, so she didn’t do that, but she said some people do.
We had THE BEST barbeque at a hole-in-the-wall joint called Maddy's with Heather and her beau, Kevin, and then settled in to do our own battling at his place, starting with Settler’s of Catan. Who won the game is not important because the interaction is what counts, but if you see that I’ve built the longest road, I advise you to give up right away. Then it was Apples to Apples in front of the gas fireplace, with Kevin (a.k.a. The South) rising again.
On Sunday, we went to church and were joined by my other cousin, Jason, for a Cuban lunch and a visit to the Georgia Aquarium. At the aquarium entrance, we faced security wanding, which is always a weird way to start something. And there was definitely an overall air of commercialization about the joint. But classical music played over the loudspeakers while people walked through at their own pace, and at points there were benches to sit and observe from. Overall, it was a fascinating and worshipful experience for me.
Aunt Rita had arranged for me to have a career consultation with the naturopath doctor in her office, which was so great. Jason found John’s set of Foxfire Books, which is a classic collection of Appalachian living how-to, wisdom, and folklore, so he was in heaven. Rich conversations with my family permeated our days. I really dig living in unarranged moments (that nobody foresees or intentionally organizes) and that have unusual components to them that are not likely to be repeated. The last evening, uncle John, aunt Rita, Heather, and Jason and I sat in the hot tub in the chilly darkness, watching strong Orion. We told stories of danger and protection. My aunt Lavonne called while we were soaking, so we put her on speaker phone and leaned in toward the anonymous arm that held her above water. She reported on various family members: who’s well, who’s sick, who’s coming and who's going. Age old rituals, all, with a few modern tweaks. We communed through water and words and wine. It was one of those good moments.