Although I've lived here most of my life, most of you probably don't know that I was born in San Diego, California. Yup, Mom grew up in sunny California, married a sailor from Central Illinois (our Dad), and moved back to Urbana when his Navy stint was done. Still, my mother's parents were both originally from Illinois, and this weekend our California family flew in for a reunion. Despite 3000 miles between us, and not corresponding as much as we should, we remain close and are always happy to see them.
Here's my mother, her sister Karla, My cousin Kim, and me. Oddly enough we'd all been having a goodbye boo-hoo just before this picture was taken, but it was still the best group shot I ended up with.
We had all of 24 hours with them before they had to return home, but we still managed to laugh. A lot.
Here's the clan:
The matriarch of the bunch, my great Aunt Dorothy, is 84 years old, and works as a bookkeeper at a small sporting goods store. She runs the local PNA (Polish National Alliance), drinks her beer on ice, and will kick your ass, if need be. When one of her nephews didn't quiet down properly while she was giving a speech, she interrupted herself to yell, "Larry, shut the hell up!" before turning back and graciously thanking us all for coming.
She has more energy than all of us put together; you just try to keep up with her. You can't. I promise you, you can't.
Here's Clint, and Kim's girlfriend Karen, standing back in the corner together, trying to stay out of photos, and pretending they aren't affiliated with this family whatsoever. We thought it a good sign that they didn't just jump in the car and hightail it out of there.
One of Kim's favorite past-times is jumping into other people's photos. Don't you love that? She's been known to just saunter into a group picture and smile along with the rest of the family. Living in touristy San Diego, and working on Coronado Island, she has plenty of opportunities to do so—if you've visited either of those places, I'd recommend checking the frame on your mantle, to make sure that you really do know everyone in that picture.
After stuffing our faces with all sorts of picnic food, we retired to Aunt D's house for the afternoon. While everyone found a chair on the deck, Clint, Kim, Karen and I decided to walk off our lunch. We grabbed our cameras and set out in this small town Streator, IL (pop. 13,899).
Nice view from this bench, don't you think?
Click to enlarge. You can't get out on Out Street.
I took this picture just in case I ever meet someone named Tony that needs a graphic. Tony's is a meat market. Not a pick up bar, a real, old-timey meat market, with a butcher case and a scale up top.
This track runs through my Aunt's back yard. I hear that you get used to the sound of the trains, and can eventually sleep right through them.
What a beer costs at the PNA.
King of Beers and Catholic Schools.
Don't all churches open their bibles?
This was in the parking lot of the Church of the Open Bible.
Clint and I are planning to garden next year, so we've taken to stopping and admiring other gorgeous gardens, looking for tips. The picture doesn't do this one any justice; it was at the end of the day, and needed some watering. It was located next to a floral haven that the same owners had set up around their house. I wish I'd have taken a picture of that also.
While we were taking pictures, an older couple stepped out onto the porch. We told them that we were admiring their garden, and chatted for a few minutes about all that was planted there. I asked them if they would can their harvest. "No, no, we just give away what we can't use," they told us. "Come back in a few weeks, and get some vegetables. We'll have way more than we can use, just the two of us."
A typical, small town conversation, yes? We bid them goodbye, and headed on. I looked over to see Kim and Karen with dumbstruck looks on their faces. "That would NEVER have happened in San Diego!" It would have been more along the lines of "Hey, what are you doing? Why are you taking pictures? Give me that film! [Punch to your face]."
Ha! I felt so smug. HA!
We might not have mountains and oceans here in Central Illinois, but a girl can still get a free tomato.