The next day we had dinner with my sister-in-law's sister and her husband, whom we also adore. I realized that my consistently warm and cozy feeling was only in part the joy I always feel when I am surrounded by people I love. It was also the security that comes from being with generations of extended family, something that my brother and I haven't experienced enough of.
I have written here about all of the disowning that went on in my father's family and that of my maternal grandfather, isolating our nuclear family from most of our relatives. But even among family members who remained on good terms, there were huge geographical divides.
It wasn't always that way. Both of my grandmother's parents grew up in Petersburg, VA, where my great-grandfather fought on the wrong side of the Civil War. I didn't know him, but I remember his widow, "Mama Daisy," and two of her sisters, very well. According to them, many of our ancestors had lived right in Petersburg since before the Revolution.
My grandfather's people immigrated from Ireland through Canada during the potato famine and ended up in Petersburg, as well. My grandmother's sister also married a local boy.
Even after my grandparents moved away, Petersburg remained the hub, the place where they returned to celebrate holidays and mourn deaths. It was a focal point for my brother and me as we grew up, as well, since Mama Daisy's branch of the family was the one that actually spoke to us. It was a bonus that my college roommate and best friend also lived in Petersburg, and married a native whose mother knew my mother.
But the older generations have died out, and everyone else has moved away. I don't actually know anyone in Petersburg anymore, and there is no hub.
As usual when my brother and sister-in-law visit, I gave them the hard sell on what a great place New York is to live. They didn't buy it; they never do. My friend isn't going to move here either. And I am not about to relocate back to the suburbs or down south. The time for bumping around has passed, for all of us.
I wish we could do this every weekend. But it's really good to have it sometimes.