Why is it so hard to visit people we love sometimes? Chris and I had such a wonderful time visiting my aunt and uncle a few years ago and have planned several trips back, but none came into fruition for one reason or another.
Our latest plan was to visit last summer while I was on sabbatical, but those plans were thwarted by my neck pain. There was no way I could handle that long a car trip without being in excruciating pain. And the airport Google showed me was still a couple of hours of driving to get to their house so the idea was nixed yet again.
Then one day I vaguely remembered that there was a different airport closer to them. Google just hadn’t suggested it. Using a search, I found the letters for Asheville and checked out it. Sure enough. I could get a flight, and it wasn’t far from their home. For a variety of reasons, we decided I would do this trip solo, so I went ahead and booked the flight and started dreaming.
Thanks to schedules, I knew I would have only one full day there. If there is anything this year has taught me, it’s to grab things while you have them and enjoy what you do have. I aimed for the week after Thanksgiving since my cousin Lise was visiting. She is the cousin that visited Chris and me when we were in Lisbon a few years ago. We were supposed to spend a week with her in Denmark earlier this year, but Covid cancelled that.
Thursday morning I was ready to head out. North Carolina had no travel restrictions, which was very nice.
The day started very early… Originally the flight was for 10 am, but that flight was cancelled, and I was put on an 8am flight. On the upside, that gave me more time with the family 🙂 We left our place at 6am, and the moon rays danced off the snow.
I think the reality of the trip began to kick in as I started seeing the mountain ranges of the south. So majestic!
If you read my aunt’s blog (I do recommend following it, if you don’t already — she’s an amazing writer), you know that food is an integral part of gatherings with friends and family. I have so many fond memories of the smell in her home as she baked breads and casseroles and the traditional Christmas pudding, which always made its way to the table with flames flickering around it.
Our first meal after arrival included homemade pumpkin cheesecake. Amazing!
Aunt Anne and Uncle John have been collecting mugs for as long as I have known them. It was really fun seeing ones I remembered from my childhood. Nate counted, and they had 68 Christmas mugs. I easily picked out my favorite, though. How cute is this?
After an early dinner I joined Lise and her nephews David and Nate on a walk down to the creek. It was a beautiful evening, and the activity was welcome after being in airports all day and having a bountiful dinner.
We repeated the walk around 7:30 the next morning — this time with my aunt and uncle rather than the boys.
Aunt Anne is very musical. She is addicted to breaking ice and listening to the sounds the breaks make. This ice was thin so there wasn’t much of a sound.
The creek looked like it belonged in a painting. So beautiful!
We came home to a feast of a breakfast. I don’t know about you, but I generally have a cup or two of coffee for breakfast. This was just amazing. And it looked so pretty! In addition to eggs, bacon, fruit and sausages, we had the most incredible biscuits. I got to try some sorghum. That was very good. Kind of like molasses.
The neigh-boring (see what I did there? 😉 ) horses came by for some treats and a pet. They were pretty snuggly, which was kind of fun.
The rest of the day was spent doing some shopping, working on puzzles, and yakking with each other. There was a cozy fire in the fireplace, and Christmas music played in the background. So festive!
Then we had another amazing dinner. This one included traditional family recipes that I remembered from Christmas celebrations at their house when I was young. Chicken casserole with a crumb topping, frozen cranberry salad, regular cranberry sauce with spices mixed in (yum!), jello salad and carrots. So good.
The thing is that the food is so wonderful, but I loved the conversation even more. We had tears rolling down our faces as we laughed and shared stories. I think our shortest meal might have been a breakfast, and even that was over an hour. Truly delightful.
This year, with the pandemic, our company meetup didn’t happen. I found I really missed the exposure to other cultures I get from that week when our company gets together.
During our short time together, we talked about different traditions from different countries. Lise had brought some napkins with Nisse on them, bringing back more childhood memories of holiday decorations with the little sprites.
Lise had come over from Denmark, and she even set up a time for us to enjoy our version of Risalamande. It’s a rice pudding with one almond in it.
The bowl is passed around as everyone takes a helping, and you are supposed to keep eating until the almond is found. The person who finds it gets a small treat. Part of the fun is disguising it if you find the almond, forcing others to keep eating no matter how full they are.
We were so stuffed from all the great food and Nate’s homemade eggnog. Still we made room for the dessert.
I’m not sure if she rigged it or not, but Lise found the almond. We truly were full, and she kindly didn’t hide the fact that she found the almond.
This was the prize. Almond Marzipan. Lise was kind enough to share it with us all, and Aunt Anne divvied it up.
On my final morning, Aunt Anne, Uncle John and I headed out for another walk. It was brisk and a bit slippery on the road so we had to be careful. The mountains there remind me of pyramids. So different from my Berkshires, but also very beautiful.
Aunt Anne tried to get some cracks out of the ice again. It was a bit better than the day prior, but not the real deal she loves. She said something very funny right after I stopped filming. I think it was something about bass notes. I quickly wrote it as a note on my phone because I knew I would want to blog it, but somehow I lost the note. Ah well.
Fun tidbit – she doesn’t just do this with ice on puddles. Aunt Anne hears songs in the river as it flows. She says the best sounds come when the river water level is low. There is more percussion.
Music is in her soul. Uncle John also shares a passion for it. I laughed at the foot mat they had by their door:
After our walk, we enjoyed some cardamom muffins Aunt Anne made and coffee Uncle John made.
One of my favorite things in life is hearing Aunt Anne sing “The Angel Gabriel.” When I arrived on Thursday I asked if she would sing it for me. We were running out of time for all the things we were trying to do. It was Saturday morning, and we had to leave for the airport very shortly. The song had not been sung.
I was a bit sad, but had such a great visit I didn’t want to stress anyone out by bringing it up. Then out of nowhere, Aunt Anne sat down at the piano ready to sing, and Uncle John joined her.
What a treat! Not only did she sing the song I requested, but also played two piano pieces. I only recorded one. I just sat back and enjoyed the second.
Next it was time to head to the airport. David had to work, but Nate came with us as he was on his way back to college and was going in that direction anyway.
Lise’s flight was an hour before mine. We hung out together in the airport lounge until it was time to go through security. Lise proudly showed off the cute shirt/mask combo she found in a store here in the US.
There is just nothing like time spent with family. And when you try and try to get together, and it doesn’t work, then being together is all the more special. I am so thankful we had this time together. The time was short, but super sweet, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
*Note – images in this post are a mix of mine, Anne Mehrling‘s and Lise Mehrling’s