Sometimes, you don’t realize how homesick you’ve been until you actually go home.
About a month ago, I made an impromptu decision to head back to Pennsylvania for my cousin’s wedding. I had ruled it out months ago because flight prices are outrageous this year. Like, seriously, airlines. What the hell is going on?
But I really, really wanted to go. E. has never been to a family wedding (or any wedding for that matter). And well, you’ve got to know my family. My dad is one of 10. I have 33 first cousins. And all of us have kids now (E. was #18 and there have been several since her, including the first great-great-grandchild). To me, one of the most important things is for E. to know her big, fat, crazy Pennsylvania Dutch family.
I kept stalking flights, and magically, one day, the flights dropped by nearly $100 per ticket. And it came the day after I read this post from my cousin. I think there was something at work here. After reading that, I knew I NEEDED to go home.
Pennsylvania, here we come!
Sadly, DadJovi could not make the trip with us. Since I don’t work on Fridays, E. and I got an early Friday morning flight up and stayed until Monday afternoon. Given the late notice and the fact that he NEVER takes days off work, it was just us girls. I’m pretty sure my family thinks we’re secretly divorced.
We got there on Friday morning, and my mom picked us up at the Allentown airport. Our first stop: the vineyard where she’s getting married in October!
Bet you didn’t know Pennsylvania had vineyards? Well it does, and the wine business is BOOMING in Pa. Seriously. It’s going to be such a pretty spot for a wedding! They even let me sample a couple of the wines that will be served. Mmmm, wine in the morning.
boozed got the tour, E. discovered something brand new to her — dandelions! No, we don’t have them in Florida (at least not anywhere I’ve ever seen them). She was OBSESSED with blowing them for wishes.
After we checked out the wedding spot, we visited our old stomping grounds.
Yes, I grew up in a town called Schnecksville. And it’s awesome. I don’t even know if it qualifies as a town, although it does have its own Zip code, so I think that makes it a town.
My mom sold our old house about six or seven years ago, but we couldn’t resist a drive-by.
It’s funny how something can look the same yet so different, huh? After we pointed out all the odd things they’ve changed about the house, we hit our favorite pizza spot for lunch.
I know NOBODY’s phone numbers anymore, but I’m pretty sure I will know Villa Rosa’s number until I die. I forgot that I even knew it until I was walking to that front door. Sadly, the chicken parm hoagie wasn’t what I remember. It was still good, don’t get me wrong. But it’s changed in some way. Or is that just me again?
After lunch, we made the two-hour drive north. History lesson: my mom and dad are both from very small towns in north-central Pennsylvania (Muncy and Hughesville, for those of you compiling the Jackie Jovi history). It’s where I was born, too, and lived until we moved to Schnecksville when I was 12.
First, we visited with some of my mom’s family that I haven’t seen in years. Then, it was time for E. to experience that special joy from my childhood — the parent switch. All children of divorce know the dropoff well. To be honest, mine was usually trauma-free, albeit slightly uncomfortable at times. I don’t know why it makes me feel uneasy to watch my parents interact. They’ve always had a very amicable relationship. It’s just weird, I guess.
The rest of the night we spent catching up with my dad, stepmom and brother, and enjoying the absolutely perfect spring weather. We ate grilled burgers on the deck, overlooking the mountains that I so love.
My dad lives about a half-mile from my grandparents’ farm, where he grew up and I spent the summers of my childhood (and most holidays, too). About 20 years ago or so, he and his two brothers bought my great-grandparents’ old farm and eventually split it into three parcels of land.
My dad’s house is in the background and my uncle’s place (my great-grandparent’s old place) is in the foreground. The other house (and the site of the wedding we were there to attend) is just to the right of the farm. So, yes, that’s three siblings who live within sight of each other, and the other six live within probably five miles. Small town doesn’t even come close to describing it. In fact, locally, the area is known as Shanerville — our family’s name.
Not too shabby a view, huh? I was so hungry to get out in this glorious landscape that I did the unthinkable on Saturday morning. I went for a run. FOUR FREAKING MILES of a run. Come see what I saw.
You guess it — more relatives live here. This is where my grandfather’s brother and his wife lived. Their daughter lives there now.
Did you know that calves have little houses? Cute!
After I recovered from my run (which may have included laying flat on my back in the driveway for a few minutes. Dang, I forgot how hard hills are), we headed over to Nam’s farm so E. could feed the horses.
First, she had to pick out the perfect ears of corn. It was not a short process.
After the horses had their fill of corn, E. finally answered the insistent calls of some pests.
She could not get over the fact that the cows kept licking her hands and drooling all over her. She wanted to feed them, too, so I took her to the upstairs of the barn so she could throw some hay down to them. And while we were in the barn, look what we found.
Even my cold, cat-hating heart may have melted just a little bit. They were so cute. There were six of them and E. fell in love with all of them, even though they covered her body in scratches.
Thank God for the plane ride home; it was the perfect excuse for letting me escape the farm without bringing a kitten home. Frankly, I don’t know if even I could have resisted. They were that cute.
After the farm, we swung by my uncle’s house to see how the last-minute wedding prep was going. I had been there for less than three minutes when my cousin Rachel grabbed me and said, “We’re going on a mission.” The florist had delivered all the wedding flowers a few hours earlier, and they checked out all the table flowers, aisle flowers and the bride’s bouquet. But they hadn’t yet checked the bridesmaids’ bouquets. When they did, they discovered that they were a disaster. Not only did they look like a child had plucked them out of a field (and cost $25 a bouquet), but they included yellow — a color the bride specifically said she did not want.
So it was off to find some flowers! The florist was of course closed already, so we ended up with the only place in town with flowers — the grocery store. And surprisingly, we found some really good options. I’ll jump ahead in the day to show you the finished product because I didn’t have my camera with me to capture the ugly flowers and the supplies:
The bridesmaids all wore neutral-colored dresses — cream, ivory, gold and tan. So we ended up with some cream-colored roses and lilies, peach lilies and these pretty purple grasses. Not bad!
After our quick flower run, it was time to wash the barn off of E and me and get ready. And, as an added bonus, we just happened to be there for a really special night — my brother’s junior prom!
Know what constantly makes me feel old? He was born my senior year of high school. How is it possible he’s now going to his junior prom? Sob.
E. was very excited to see him all dressed up. OK, fine, she was more excited to be dressed up herself.
Speaking of grown-up, when did my baby become a little kid?
After we waved good-bye to my brother, we headed over the hill for the event of the year. Seriously, it was one of the most amazing weddings I’ve ever attended. Here, take a look for yourself.
Once we were done gawking at all their wonderful touches, it was time for us both to spend some quality time with our cousins. For E., that was on the swingset.
And for me and my cousins, we played at the bar.
The three in the bottom two pictures (plus two more who are unpictured) were my closest cousins growing up. The two guys in the bottom picture and I were the same year. The one in the middle is six months older than me and the one on the right is six months younger than me. So from birth on, we’ve been playmates. Rachel (whose blog I linked to above) is in the picture above. She’s the younger sister of Neil (bottom, right) and older sister of the groom. They were military brats growing up, so they lived everywhere from Germany to Ohio to California. But they came home to the farm every summer and we usually coordinated visits so we’d all be there together. Other than my friends, Rachel is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister, and over the years, our friendship has continued to grow. Her frequent trips to Disney have helped!
During the wedding, they also had another family tradition — the dollar dance.
How smokin’ hot is my cousin (and the maid of honor)? And their dresses? I’m so jealous. They were all adorable. Anyway, back to the dollar dance. For the uninitiated, you pay to dance with either the bride or groom. It’s called the Dollar Dance but you usually give a few bucks (or more). The ladies dance with the groom, the men dance with the bride. You pay your money, you get a shot (usually Peach Schnapps), then take your turn on the dancefloor until you get tapped on the shoulder.
Growing up, we did this at every wedding. It was only as an adult that I realized that this didn’t occur at everywhere in the country. But clearly it should. The couple gets a sack of money; the guests get a shot and some precious moments with the happy couple. Win, win, win!
E. and I both got our money’s worth out of the night.
She literally played herself to sleep. I’ve NEVER seen her so conked out. When my brother got home from the prom, my dad drove her over to the house and she never even stirred. We put my brother in charge and kept on celebrating with the family. It was a great decision at the time. In the morning when E. still got up at her normal time, notsomuch. Totally worth it though.
So, that was our great Pennsylvania adventure. Forgive the novel, but it’s my trip and I’ll overwrite if I want to.
It just was a perfect weekend. Perfect weather. E. was very well-behaved and THRILLED to finally spend some time with the cousins that she hears so much about (by Saturday night, she was telling them all that she loved them and has talked nonstop about her cousins ever since). And I got a much-needed dose of home.
I think if I lived there still I wouldn’t appreciate it as much as I do living so far away. There are definitely times when the stray thought crosses my mind that maybe we should think of moving to Pa. I don’t think it’ll ever happen; Florida has definitely grown on me.
But it sure is fun to go home again.
Do you live in your hometown? If you don’t, do you wish that you did?
Oh, J…you will never regret following your gut…you and E both needed to be there, and you were. E will never forget her cousins and the cows and horses and and and…I LOVE families!!!
It looks like a lot of fun. My husband is originally from the Pittsburgh area and PA is a really pretty state. I can’t say I live in my hometown, or would ever want to. There are some things that make it special, but the lack of opportunity and nasty winters mean it is not the place for me. I also have a very small family, so there are fewer people to miss.
The dollar dance is pretty common at weddings in WI too. We didn’t have it at ours, but my sister made bank at hers.
It sounds like you had a great trip!
Your two reasons are the two reasons that will probably keep me out of PA for the foreseeable future — the lack of job opportunities for me and the winters. Ugh, the winters. I’ve become a winter wimp since moving to Florida 9 years ago. I know what I need to do is just be dedicated to making more regular trips home. That way, my daughter and I get my family fix but then we come back home to Florida. I’m probably romanticizing how nice it’d be to have all that family around — I’m so used to not having any of that drama or interference in our lives that it would probably get really old really fast.
I totally wish I’d done the dollar dance. We got married in Key West, so there weren’t too many “traditional” wedding features so the thought never even crossed my mind. But today I’d totally do it for the bag o’ cash!
It was a great trip! Thanks for the comment!
Megan @ The Road to Skinny says
It’s so weird to read a blog with towns that I’m familiar with! PA can be such a beautiful state! That wedding looks like so much fun! I would have loved to have a wedding like that! Those kittens are adorable! But don’t forget, kittens turn into cats, which aren’t so adorable anymore!
I stand by the opinion that I think Pennsylvania is the most beautiful place on Earth. I’ve traveled around the world and I love beaches, rainforests, and English estates. But to me, there’s just nothing like the PA mountains. But I can live without the winters. I think I’m so enamored because it’s been at least four years since I was back in the spring/summer. I forgot just how perfect it can be then, especially since I was fleeing 90-degree weather!
The wedding was perfect. They did such a good job of incorporating the country without making it kitschy or contrived. I should have taken more photos but I was too busy talking!
And you’re so right about the kittens!
Sooooo pretty!! I really need to find out what part of PA my mom’s boyfriend is from. I know it’s near Allentown (she goes up there pretty often).
What a gorgeous wedding — and beautiful day!! And E looks like she had SO much fun.
I feel the same way as you every time I go back to Peabody. I love it, but I could never move back to MA. I am very happy I seem to always have reasons to visit though!
I think my lesson this visit was to not let too much time go between visits. It’s just so hard to take the time and money to do it, but it’s definitely worth it. This weekend was just one of those weekends where everything came together perfectly. It won’t always be that, but for this time out, I’m glad it did.
And yeah, E. is pretty much obsessed with farm life now. I hope she still feels that way in another summer or two when I start shipping her up there for weeks at a time in the summer!
Oh my God, E is so cute and looks like such a big girl now! Looks like you guys had fun, I love that she’s obsessed with dandelions, wish I could ship you all of mine
She does look like a big kid all of the sudden, doesn’t she? I forget that she IS getting big until we get around younger kids. And then I’m suddenly, “Where did this kid come from and where is my baby?” Sob.
I wish you could send your dandelions down! I also taught her “Momma had a baby and its head popped off” and we taught her to hold buttercups under her chin to see if she likes butter. It was a nature wonderland this time of year! I left out the part about her chasing bunnies across my dad’s yard. Good stuff.
Looks like a great trip! I only live about 1.5 hrs from where I grew up but would not want to live there. I’m at th beach now and def cannot live without it at this point! I love going “home” and enjoying the nostalgia, but no desire to live there. I just love where I am now too much!
I love these photos so much.. I am not sure if I can also experience this with my kids and family.. I just hope I can someday.. Anyway, thanks for the inspiration here..
Caroline Calcote says
aw man, now I’m all homesick for east Tennessee. Luckily, I’m going home for a week for my 25th high school reunion in July. So so old. I think I beat you on the first cousins. My mom was one of 10 kids. I think I have 36 first cousins. It’s so hard to count when you get up into those numbers. We have so many that many of us have the same names. My name is Melinda Caroline. I have one first cousin named Melinda and one named Carrie. My great grandmother was named Caroline Melinda but called “Carrie”. Why my mom switched it, but then called me by my middle name, I’ll never know. Well, if I asked her I would.
AW! That makes me miss summers on my grandma’s farm in Indiana. LOVED their wedding by the way – very rustic chic. And – I did not know baby cows live in their own little houses. I must remember this tidbit when I get my own baby cow.