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Family Reunion 2016: Myrtle Beach

While growing up primarily in South Florida, my brother and I were mostly surrounded by my father’s side of the family from Jamaica. Since most of my mom’s side of the family live in California and South Carolina, I never had a chance to bond with that side of my family. In recent years, however, I’ve gotten more familiar with some relatives in South Carolina. Moving to California in 2011 has also given me a chance to reconnect with my cousins out here. Yet there are still so many relatives on my mom’s side who I haven’t met.

My mom’s side of the family traces back to the Campbell’s, and they have a family reunion every two years that I’ve only attended once, back in 2010 in Baltimore. It is now 2016 and time for me to reconnect with that side of my family. A few weeks ago, I went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to attend this year’s family reunion. In all transparency, I was never a huge fan of the state, mainly because it is a bit too isolated and quiet for me, but surprisingly it has grown on me more with every visit.

I vaguely remember visiting the state as a child with my brother. We stayed at my Aunt Ruth’s house (whom my mom is named after). I distinctly remember the scent of cigarette smoke and playing outside on our aunt’s porch. I remember the house feeling small and dark yet cozy and warm. I remember seeing a stack of bricks in the yard, and I remember running around with my brother and cousin on hot summer days. I also remember feeling like being in South Carolina was like being in a far away place that didn’t really exist, like Dorothy in Oz.

My experience evolved when I revisited South Carolina 11 years ago when I was in college (I wrote about that experience here). I remember visiting the small town of Cameron to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins for Thanksgiving. I remember tasting my Aunt Ele’s amazing sweet potato pie and seeing cotton fields for the first time. I also remember feeling eerily connected to my ancestors while there. Visiting the state again this year gave me the same eerie feeling.

p1100523I had a chance to see cotton fields again on this trip. It was the same emotional feeling that I’d experienced back in 2005 when I touched the cotton, feeling the soft fibers against this prickly plant and wondering what it was like for slaves to pick the fibrous substance day in and day out. I closed my eyes while standing in the field and saw vivid imagery of my beautifully brown-shaded ancestors surrounded by this curious, cloud-white substance, a stark juxtaposition of browns and whites that seemed disturbingly appropriate.
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img_8921Instead of visiting Cameron, we spent time in Myrtle Beach for the reunion. Myrtle Beach is a popular vacation destination known for its beautiful waters and southern charm. Our hotel was right on the water and I forced myself to wake up super early one morning to watch the sun rise above the Atlantic. I met so many family members for the first time and reconnected with ones I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. It was nice to hear about the history of that side of my family and being there sparked a curiosity about how far back I can trace our roots. I’d like to see if I can get a family tree constructed. When I was a little girl, my mom always told me that I was a princess (typical mother stories, haha) who was a descendant of a royal family from Africa. It turns out that there may be some truth to that story. I’m excited to research my lineage and learn more about the struggles and successes of my ancestors, from the days of slavery to even earlier days in Africa.

Beating my brother at chess :)

My mom, aunt, uncle, and some cousins

Starting family traditions :)

With my parents and my brother

p1100551My parents recently bought a vacation home in Orangeburg, South Carolina and my mom just finished renovating and decorating it. My brother and I went with our parents to see the home for the first time and it is beautiful. I’m not sure if it was because all of us were together under one roof like old times or if there was something deeper and more spiritual that gave me a connection to the area, but it felt warm and safe to be there. I’m actually looking forward to visiting again (something I’m sure my mom would be surprised to hear because she’s always begging me to go to South Carolina more). Maybe it’s a sign of maturity, an acquired appreciation for a little-known side of my family history that I’m curious to find out more about. Whatever the reason, I’m eager to return to figure it out.

Family is something that is so easy to take for granted. I’m close to my immediate family and my Jamaican side of the family, but I really want to do a better job of keeping in touch with my mom’s side. I have cousins right here in the Bay area who I hardly see (it doesn’t help that all of us are horrible at reaching out to each other as we get sucked into our own little bubbles). I plan to reach out to them more. This family reunion went from being a task on my to-do list to an unforgettable experience that I’m looking forward to experiencing again in two years at the next reunion. I’m excited to learn more about my amazing family. :)

One comment

  1. Ruth Cyrus says:

    Yes, my darling daughter, I am surprised that you want to connect with our family more, but also extremely happy to hear this! While there is absolutely truth to the royal princess history, remember that you are a princess, in more ways than one.

    And as always, this is beautifully written post . . . reading it makes me feel like I am back in SC with you guys!

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