We are wrapping up our 13-day whirlwind trip back to Illinois. My belly is stuffed and my heart is bursting!
Our vacation was full of visiting both my family and my husband’s family. We loved BBQ with friends, brunch in downtown Chicago, boys first Cubs game (with a win and a homer at Wrigley Field!), visiting favorite restaurants, wake surfing at Clear Lake, a drive-by of our old house and boy’s elementary school, long walks smelling freshly cut grass and snapping photos of tall evergreen and sycamore trees. The impetus of our journey back ‘home’ was attending the first big Jao Family Reunion for my Lolo Iya’s 46th Celebration of Life death anniversary, my grandfather on my father’s side.
During the pandemic, this was my Auntie Ching’s dream and my Illinois-based cousins made it come to fruition. My father was second of eight children, and family came from all over the country. Even one cousin came from the Philippines for an extended US visit. Our final count was 83 Jao family members with dozens of us staying in one VRBO. One of my cousins called it ‘Christmas on steroids’.
In one weekend, we ate A LOT, we drank (some more than others!) we laughed…and we laughed HARD, we cried, we SANG; oh boy did we sing, we swam, well always with some competition of teams. We even worked out together as part of the weekend agenda for those workout warriors. My SoCal cousin, who owns NXTLVL Sport & Fitness, led the workout around the pool. Check out NXTLVL if you are ever in Southern Cali area!
In my book I talk about the journey forward is to look back. This weekend we were bridging the old and the new generations so they will remember and keep the tradition and legacy alive. On Saturday morning, I walked into the kitchen and Auntie Ching had an engaged audience telling how Lolo Iya escaped China when he was 16 years old with his family to travel on boat to the Philippines. I heard stories I never heard before…perhaps book #2?
No family is perfect, but this weekend, family was good for my soul.
A few quotes from the weekend and all so true:
“Family united, hearts ignited, we ventured forth, an unstoppable force, on a reunion trip that redefined epic.”
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them”
“I am blessed that God chose me to be a part of this family. I don’t know the next time we will all be together so my heart is full.”