I was the one in my extended family that everyone expected would leave home, despite strong familiar pressures to stay, if not in my small rural hometown at least nearby. When I went away to college in Massachusetts and came out of the closet, I knew that as much as I loved my family I’d never be able comfortably to live in the conservative southern Virginia mountain town, so my folks gradually and reluctantly accepted that I’d likely be living far away. When Hal and I decided to leave Boston in 1987, and didn’t really have a strong shared opinion about where to move, my family lobbied heavily for Washington, DC, since it would be only a four-hour drive away. And that’s where we ended up at that point. I always said that I wanted to head west, though, most likely to San Francisco, and even came extremely close to relocating to Seattle in 1992, but some warning bells about the job, and a burgeoning relationship with Jay, kept me in Arlington. But the family had resigned themselves by then to the expectation that I’d be moving to California sometime over the next few years.
As the years went by and that didn’t happen, though, I think they started to start thinking I would stay in DC. In the meantime, my youngest cousin (there were six in our generation, as my dad and his two sisters each had two kids, a boy and a girl) had graduated from UVa and had moved to the DC area as well. In many ways, he and I were the two black sheep of the family, the only two to go away to college (only one other cousin, in fact, finished a four-year degree, but she never left home, and still lives in the same house in which she grew up), and the only two who didn’t come back to southwestern Virginia to live.
In fact, in 1997 my cousin and his then-fiancee moved to San Francisco themselves, surprisingly beating me out here by ten years. They married the following year, and now live in Oakland with their two young daughters. Since Jeff and I moved out here, though, we hadn’t yet seen or spoken to them (they hadn’t been able to come to Covington for Christmas last year, which is the one time each year I’d usually see them).
My aunt flew out to visit my cousin and his family last week, so while she was here we made plans to get together, and they invited us over for dinner on Labor Day. It was not only my first time at their house, but my first visit to Oakland (except for the airport) since moving here fourteen months ago.
They have a beautiful near-century-old house in a charming neighborhood not far from Lake Merritt. We had a really nice time visiting them, and a wonderful meal (my cousin’s wife put together a clambake, with clams, shrimp, mussels, corn on the cob, and green beans, as an homage to her own childhood in Connecticut), and were introduced to a great couple who live up the street from them, an adorably cute cop and a former nanny with an adorably cute Leicestershire accent, and their two adorably cute little boys who often play with my cousin’s two girls.
We’ll see them again at Christmas, back in Covington, but I’m hoping we’ll get together with them out here more often now, too.