A road trip was long overdue, and my regular traveling companions were planning a journey to northeast Ohio to visit relatives. They urged me to join the group, which would also include my Aunt Ruth (traveling cousin Nancy’s mom) and cousin Deb (Nancy’s sister).
They talked me into it. I was hesitant at first because I was going to meet people that I did not know, despite the fact that they are relatives and, being so quiet, shy and reserved, I thought I wouldn’t feel comfortable around them. Who was I trying to kid?
Plans were solidified, and we were off.
At one time, the whole clan lived in the Bedford County area of Pennsylvania. Mom’s dad and two of his brothers married three sisters, so Mom had a bunch of “double cousins.” When coal was no longer king in that area, there was little opportunity for employment. However, northeast Ohio was awash in industry and jobs were plentiful. That’s when the family’s migration began. And that’s why I didn’t know quite a few of Mom’s cousins and their offspring.
When we arrived at the designated landing spot, we were greeted by Nellie, a very friendly woman, the daughter of one of Mom’s favorite cousins. She reminded me instantly of her grandmother, with whom she shared a first name. One of her brothers was there, so I introduced myself as “Doris’ daughter” to establish a family connection.
Nellie and her husband fed us until we could barely move, and we chatted and chatted and chatted. I had “assigned” myself the task of gathering information from these folks, so I asked a lot of questions. Plans for the following day were finalized, more or less. We’d go out for breakfast, then visit with more relatives, leave Aunt Ruth and Peg (Nellie’s mother) with this batch of cousins, and four of us would take off for Orrville, home of Smucker’s, to stock up on various jellies and such.
We’d hoped to visit with our Aunt Esta, last of our grandmother’s generation, later in the day, but time ran away from us and we delayed that little reunion. Then we went back to Nellie’s for more overeating, and more chatting and finalizing of plans for the next day. We would travel to Dover to visit the Warther museum. It was a very hot day, yet we did not melt.
Our beloved Aunt Esta was one week away from her 99th birthday, so we took her a gigantic bouquet of 99 roses. She’s a tiny little lady who’s still mentally sharp. Six of us invaded her space. She asked me how my medical tests turned out. Then she asked if I’d sold my house and the “house on the Broad Top.” Indeed I had, and I gave her an extra kiss for a cousin who couldn’t make the trip with us.
She encouraged each of us to tell her all about what was happening in our lives. We thanked her for looking out for us since she’s now our matriarch.
I managed to sneak in one question, asking her when she and her husband, Mom’s favorite uncle, Scott, her mother’s only brother, left Pennsylvania for Ohio. She told me it was 1946.
“I had opportunities that I don’t think I’d have had if we had stayed,” she explained. She became involved in the church. “I’d wanted to be a missionary since I was a little girl,” she noted. Uncle Scott spent 43 years working for Republic Steel. They had a good life in the Buckeye State.
Our time in Ohio flew by. Everyone had a wonderful time, and our relatives were happy to see us. (Either that or they’re very good liars!) Nellie fed us a gigantic breakfast on our departure day. “You’re welcome to come here any time,” she insisted, and gushed about how happy she was to see all of us.
We regaled her with tales of the wonders of our part of Pennsylvania, made sure she knew about our annual family reunions and promised to keep in touch.
I’m so glad I made the trip!