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This is the first in a series of blogs about my recent trip back to my native state of West Virginia. I traveled for almost three weeks at the end of September through mid-October. I went "home". I am from West Virginia and I went back east for a family reunion in Maryland. I grew up in several different small towns in West Virginia, always on the border of a neighboring state. First in Colliers, WV, in the northern panhandle, near Pittsburgh, PA and from ten years old through high school graduation, I lived in a little town called Wiley Ford in the eastern panhandle near Cumberland, MD. The family reunion was on my mother's side of the family, which is a large clan of over 100 cousins, plus the remaining aunts and uncles - my mother's siblings. The reunion trip had been planned for at least a year and at the last minute I tagged on an extra week at the beginning of my trip to go with a dear friend, a college roommate, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and had begun rigorous treatment. You can read more about Adrienne here. The month leading up to the trip was a blur. We run a small, tight ship here at YAY! LiFE!, especially with all the restructuring we've done in the past year and we're a two person show again. You can read more about that here. I needed to get systems in place so that everything could go smoothly in my absence. This included documenting in detail all of the day to day tasks I perform on a regular basis in a way that someone else, namely my husband and YAY! co-founder, Carl, could understand and do in my place. I flew into Pittsburgh on a Friday night and was picked up by a college friend who I hadn't talked to on the phone in years and who, without hesitation, said "yes" when I called to ask for a ride from the airport. A big shout out to Carrie O.H. Hill Pancake! If you live in the Pittsburgh area, check out her business - Carnegie Reiki. Carrie and her husband, Jimmy, opened their home to me and I relaxed in their hospitality for the night and the next day Carrie and I headed off to Morgantown, WV for a WVU football game and to meet up with more friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in over twenty years. I was spending the night with another friend at her 85-year-old mother's house because it was conveniently located in town within walking distance of the stadium. So a gang of 40-something girls converged on Rose for a sleepover at her house. Rose happens to be my sister's mother-in-law, so Rose and my friend Robin, her daughter, are more like family and friends. But don't all old friends tend to feel like family? I had forgotten what a big deal college football is. I'm not proud of it, but when I went to college, I rarely even made it into the game. Tailgating and drinking beer were a much higher priority. I was amazed at the ocean of yellow I found myself a part of. Let's go 'Eers! "Let's go Mountaineers! Let's go Mountaineers! Now, I wasn't drinking beer this time, but I was still in the parking lot when Brad Paisley opened the game with a rendition of "Country Roads". All of us had separate tickets so we split up and went into the game. I wish I could say that my school spirit for my alma mater was strong enough to capture my interest for long, but I convinced Robin to leave before half-time to get something to eat. We walked to a local bar, the Boston Beanery. It has been in business since way before I was in college. I was craving some of the famous curly fries dipped in blue cheese dressing. That's how we do it back there - okay? After the game we reconvened at Rose's and a few more friends joined us and we talked and laughed for hours. I have to give a shout out to Don for being brave enough to be the only male in this group of ladies, which included his wife. Their four year old son promptly fell asleep soon after their arrival snuggled in a blanket on the floor. Rose lost her husband three years ago this coming December and she said multiple times that this was the most fun she'd had since before JR passed away. The next morning, the six of us girls who had spent the night gathered in the kitchen for breakfast, with my friend Chrissy, who was in town from Hawaii, playing her ukulele and singing for us. If she reads this she'll want to kill me for calling her Chrissy, but I've know her too long to call her Chris. We've known each other since we were both eleven and I started a new school in the sixth grade after we moved to a new town when my mom passed away. We bonded immediately being the two chubby kids in our homeroom. She says she still remembers what I was wearing the first day we met and I do too - purple overalls, with a lavender puffy sleeve, three quarter length sleeve shirt and white Nikes with a purple swoosh and rainbow laces that I had switched out from the plain ones. Sorry, I do not have a picture of this outfit. Words feel inadequate to explain how nourishing it was to my soul being with these friends I've known for so long. I was nervous before the trip. "What if we've grown apart? What if we have nothing in common anymore? What if we don't have anything to talk about?" And I got my answer. Of course we are not the same people we were twenty years ago, but the shared history is a bond that is rich and runs deep. Our history together is like a tree with deep roots, even if we don't see each other or even talk on the phone often. Do you have any stories to share about old friends and the bonds that last through a lifetime? We'd love to hear them in the comments. If you like this post, please share it.
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