After months of e-mail exchanges and communications, and weeks of building excitement and anticipation, my cousin Alan and his whole family landed at Newark Airport on Monday morning. I'd sweet-talked my brother, Mark, into going with me to pick them up. They were coming in on Continental, so we blithely steered our way into terminal C, where Continental flights have been arriving for decades, and hoofed our way through the ever growing expanses of the terminal to find an arrivals board - only to discover that the only flight listed as coming in from Knoxville was a. already landed, and b. at a gate in terminal A. Ooops. Continental EXPRESS flights arrive at terminal A.
We flew back to the car, and corkscrewed our way through the airport to daily parking for terminal A, and got out butts inside. We located the gate, and checked the baggage area, but didn't see any of them standing around, so we made our way back up to the exit from the appropriate gate and prepared to wait. My cell phone rang. Using voice and eyes, my cousin Alan managed to spot us before I spotted him. Very soon, hugs were had all around, and Mark was reacquainted with Alan, and introduced again to Rhea, and to the next two generations for the first time. We headed for the air-rail, and made our way over to Avis, where we picked up the van and were on our way.
Monday was, I'm sure, quite tiring for all of the Tennessee gang. After dropping my car and Mark back at Mark's house, where the day would end hours later with a family reunion party, I hit the road with the cuzzins. I drove up to Wayne, so Alan could see the house in which he spent his early years, and to Wyckoff, where he took pictures of the house in which my family lived, which my dad built. Alan's dad, my father's brother, helped him on more than one occasion. Then we drove back over this way, had lunch in Hackettstown
(pizza and mussels
in hot sauce, at Alan's specific request.) Hackettstown is the next town over from where I live, and coincidentally, had been where Alan's Uncle Jules and Aunt Betty lived in the 1960s. Alan had spent the summer there when he was 16, and already living down in Tennessee. He seemed to recognize it, though it has changed substantially since then.
We then headed over to my house, so I could feed and exercise the dogs before we headed back over to my brother's town. I dropped them off at the motel at around 4:00 p.m., so they could finally rest and freshen up, and then picked them up at 6:30 for the party.
Bless my sister-in-law, Joan, and my brother, Mark, for volunteering to host this. It was a tremendous amount of work, and they did a spectacular job. Fortunately, the oppressive heat and humidity lifted, the air cleared, and we were able to have the party outside, around the pool. Cousins from the area arrived, and everyone seemed to have a really great time.Here we are - it wasn't all of us, but most. Front: Leslie (Derek Nash's daughter), Georgeanne (Tommy & Jean's daughter), Rhea (Alan's wife), Patty (Alan's daughter), me, my little buddy, Shelby (Patty's daughter), and Camille, being strangled by Thomas (Tommy & Jean's son.) Back: Alan, my brother Mark, Tommy, my brother Steve (directly behind Tommy), Michael (Alan's son), Jesse(Steve's son - directly behind Michael), and Aaron (Patty's son.)This was a perfectly composed gathering on the steps. All I had to do was call their names, and I got this shot. From front center, clockwise, Shelby (Alan's granddaughter,) Michael (Alan's son,) David (Michael's partner,) and my two beautiful nieces, Genny and Alison.
My lit-up brother, Mark and Shelby.
The Baby Boomer Boys: Steve, Alan, Tommy and Mark.
The Baby Boomer girls: Georgeanne (ok, she's not a boomer), Camille, me, Eileen (Gracie's daughter) and Leslie (Derek's daughter.)
On Tuesday morning, the Tennessee 8, Mark, and Joan and I had breakfast at Mark's and then headed to NYC for the day. We left the van at the Liberty Park park & ride, and caught the light rail to the ferry in Jersey City. Mark works there, but I'd not been there in years, and certainly not since 9-11-2001. They've done a very moving job with a couple of very small, but very powerful memorials on the waterfront. On that terrible day, of course, this waterfront had a front row seat, witnessing the awful disaster playing out across the river. It is sobering and powerful to see, and to realize what happened there.
Shelby, sitting next to the Firemen's Memorial at the Jersey City waterfront.
Rhea examining the plaque at the Firemen's Memorial, with Joannie and Mark in the background.
Scott, Shelby, Patty and Aaron, in front of a twisted iron beam from the World Trade Center. Lower Manhattan in the background gives you an idea of the view of the tragedy one had from this site. Aaron reading one of the memorials.We did a lot of walking and saw a lot of things that were on their list. We started at the Winter Garden Atrium, which affords a good view down into Ground Zero. Next, we went to Trinity Church, the little Revolutionary era church which survived the 9-11 terrorist strike, which you can see across Ground Zero from the Atrium. It's one of the nice stories of survival from that day. By all rights, the church should have been destroyed. It wasn't touched. A 100 year old Sycamore tree, which burned from the heat, protected the church. Not a single window was broken. Inside, rescuers and workers rested and were fed and treated. There are several memorials, largely impromptu and put in place by visitors, inside. It is a powerful and affecting apace. Patty and Shelby in the Winter Garden Atrium, overlooking Ground Zero. If you look over Patty's shoulder, you can see a small copse of trees. Out of the center of it, the steeple of the Trinity Church can just be seen.
From the church we walked over to Canal Street, and through Chinatown, into Little Italy, where we had lunch. Then we took a subway to the Empire State Building, and then one over to Times Square. From there, we walked to Rockefeller Plaza, and finally caught the E-train back down to the World Financial Center and caught the ferry back to Jersey City. It may not sound like much, but it was a lot of walking, and a full day. Everyone seemed to see what they'd come to see, and a number of things they never expected.
One of the experiences the kids wanted was to ride on the subways. Here's some of the group at the end of the day, riding the E train back down to the World Financial Center, on our way back to catch the ferry home. This is what happy, tired Palmieris look like. Too bad pictures don't show pain, 'cause there's a bunch of very sore feet in this picture. This is Michael, Shelby, Mark, Joan, and David, all looking a tad worse for wear.
More than anything else, we all just really enjoyed one another's company, and the pleasure of discovering the kinship that underlies "family." When my father was alive, he was the one who kept in touch with everyone. He was the "glue" to a large extent, that kept everyone close. I kept thinking throughout these few days how thrilled he would be if he could know that we all were together. Maybe he does. It was nice to think he did.Alan and his family got up early on Wednesday morning to make their way down to Atlantic City.By now, on Friday afternoon, they are back in Tennessee. I hope that the rest of their stay in the North was as satisfying and enjoyable for them as their time with us was for us.
Ya'll come back now, y'hear?