Tuesday, February 05, 2008

LIFE'S A TRIP...If You're Lucky!

The lady in the picture with surprise written all over her face is my grandmother as she entered her Surprise 83rd Birthday Party/Talent Show thrown by my family. She is surrounded by me, the eighth of her sixty-nine grandchildren, my first cousin Mikey (lower left corner) who is the last of her 69 grandchildren, and my second cousin Tracy, one of her 30 or so (at last count) great-grandchildren. I have the extreme privilege of being a member of a five-generation family full of people who enjoy each other just about more than they enjoy anything else! With the exception of two of the smaller branches of my Grandmother's family tree, we all live here in St. Louis and thus every Saturday as I was growing up ended up being a virtual family reunion as we all gathered at my Grandmother's house.

For as far back as I can remember, my Grandmother's house has been my family's gathering place and every major "soul food holiday" celebrated by black American families like mine meant that my Grandma was in the kitchen hooking it up for ALL OF US! I am 42 years old people and my mother, my Grandmother's oldest child is 65. Y'all do the math, that's a HELLA lot of cooking! I try to help her out by taking the load off of her when I can like in this picture which is my basement set for Christmas dinner with 60 of my closest relatives ;)
or this picture which shows said relatives in the self-service line getting their eat on!.

    This year, as my Grandmother's protector and favorite grandchild (get over it and just accept the facts", said Ms. Just Write Now to her siblings and cousins who have always hated on her for this designation...LOL!), I decided to put an end to her having to work so hard to have us all together on a holiday; so I organized a "vacation on the lay-away plan" for all of my relatives who wanted to come.

    So from Friday, November 21, 2008 thru Saturday, November 29th our current address will be here:

    We will spend that time cruising and partying from Fort Lauderdale to San Juan to St. Thomas to La Romana to Grand Turk to Nassau and back to Fort Lauderdale on the newest addition to Carnival's fleet The Splendor. In the course of all of this cruising, the first of the major winter "soul food holidays" Thanksgiving, will occur. For the first time in 65 years, my Grandma isn't worried about who's doing the cooking but will still be able to have Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by her family which is and has been the thing that drives everything she does for more than half a century now. Even going on this cruise is in part driven by her love for her family. You need me to prove it? Well, she (like my mother) is pretty much terrified of water. Having convinced my own mother to just try cruising back in 2003 when our branch of the family tree went on a 7 day cruise, I assigned my mother to convince her mother. My mother assured my Grandmother that indeed what I say is true and she never even has to see the water if she does not want to. To add to that endorsement and ensure that my Grandma's fear of water won't lead to a last minute decision to renege, I am paying for her cruise as a gift and I know she would never allow my money to go to waste ;) This is our itinerary,

    and to date 38 of my family along with a few close friends of the family have signed up and begun their "lay-away" payments to go. I anticipate a mad rush of relatives trying to sign up in the next few weeks now that tax refund season is here. They too will be able to attend; however, because the rest of us made our initial deposits last August prior to Carnival adding an extra day for which we were not charged, they will not get as great a price as we did (i.e. interior cabins $645 per person).

    One of the things I am passionate about is opening up the doors of the world to my family. I come from a family that for the most part dwells in the lowest economic brackets. As a child everyone I was related to lived in "the hood". Born in the projects and having spent my entire childhood in all black, inner-city neighborhoods and schools (and loved it I might add!), it could have been very easy to miss out on all the opportunities available in the wide world. When I was 16 years old, I was blessed to be encouraged by my mother to try for a selection to be a foreign exchange student to another country. I was selected and subsequently spent four months living in Italy. From that point on, the world became a playground for me and I refuse to let myself or those in my family with the desire to play on this playground allow lack of funds to quell what is attainable with just a little advance planning and discipline.

    So let the count down begin because in less than ten months my 86 year old Grandma will be leaving this country for the very first time in her life along with the grandchildren and great-grandchild pictured with her above and many of her other descendents not pictured here. The age range of those in attendance based on current reservations will go from 86 all the way down to 3 years old! My Grandma will see, feel, smell, taste, and touch things she never before imagined, and she will have the intensely special sensation of sharing those experiences with four generations of her descendents. Imagine that! One thing's for sure, I know we are ready to go; what I don't know is whether or not the Eastern Caribbean is ready for us!!

    Picture taken at my Grandma's house when I was about seven.

    (Okay, okay, I'm third from left standing in grey dress with lollipop stick hanging out my mouth and that's Grandma in the middle of the picture in the orange dress and Afro wig ;0)


    Luke Cage said...

    Grandmom looked so surprise. That was so sweet. Makes me think about my grandmom. I like the part where you put "So from Friday, November 21, 2008 thru Saturday, November 29th our current address will be here" -lol- I've never seen it done like that before. I'll have to sticky finger that sometime. ;) Heyyy miss Sharon! Your family looks beautiful.

    CapCity said...

    I am woman enough to admit I AM JEALOUS of all that LUV in one family (I think y'all got some of our share;-)! U r TRULY BLESSED, Sis!

    And uh, Sistah Sharon - since I'll be in St. Louie for YOUR b'day - I'm LOOKING forward to helping U celeBRATE! But u'll have to provide the venues (cuz i'm new in yo' town!;-)...and it won't hurt if u brang along a few of those relatives of the male persuasion;-). LOL!! Hugz, Mama!

    LadyLee said...

    Ahhh man... I.AM.JEALOUS.


    Just playing. But I do wish I was from a close knit family like yours. It's just not the case.

    But I can come over here and read this post over and over again, and have a cup of your joy anytime I please:)

    That's gonna be something else, Grandma being able to relax and cruise with the kinfolk! I think that's wonderful!

    Safa said...

    Sharon, I am jealous!!! That's right...I said it LOL. I think it is so wonderful and such a blessing that you have all of this family love around you. 5 generations...beautiful. The one thing about coming from such a large family is that you're always meeting relatives you've never met...or don't remember. Like me...I'm pretty sure I'm the little girl sitting back there in the corner...OK so I can go on the cruise now right?

    G. Cornelius said...

    Thats love...

    I'll keep you posted

    DJ said...

    Sharon, You know we both come from large families!!! I love my little G'ma...and new Grandad! Her getting married on New Year's Eve was one of the most incedible events in my life. My G'ma has traveled the world but she has always wanted to go somewhere with her namesake..Me. This year I will have to make that happen!

    Yall have a great time and I know we will see you Diva'd on that boat!

    Anonymous said...

    all I can say is "what a beautiful blessing." I know you are wise enough to cherish these memories for life.

    DJ Diva said...

    FYI...i finally posted on Bossydiva thanks to you! And the Monday Mixtape is up on DJ Diva.