Jason S. and I are cousins. We’re nearly the same age, so we’ve been cousins now for over 25 years. But we had never met. He’s from a town near Albany, NY, and I live clear across the country in California. In fact, there is lot of family in the North East that I’d never met.
How we got so separated:
My Jida’s parents came to the US from Lebanon and started a family in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Jida is Lebanese for “grandfather”
My Jida was the only one of his many brothers and sisters to move from New England and start a family on the West Coast. Everyone else stayed in the East and most still live either in Springfield or near Albany. About as far as it gets from California.
Ok, let’s be honest. When I planned this trip, meeting my extended family was not high on the agenda. It was more about the country; National Parks, big cities, seeing friends, and meeting locals. I had never met my family in New England, so why visit people I don’t even know? I thought it would be like meeting total strangers. I was also worried about the cold weather coming in November, especially to the North. All in all, I did not expect to make it there, but never fully closed off the option either.
Meeting Jason was a different story. Jason had left the East, moving with his girlfriend Katelynn to Madison, Wisconsin. Madison was easy, on the way, and part of the original plan so after finding out my cousin lived there, I definitely wanted to meet up. Jason, Katelynn, and I met each other at the Olde Fashioned Bar, and we got to know each other over drinks and cheese curds. I peppered him with questions about the family back East and he, in turn, was just as curious about my story and how I’d ended up on this trip.
Meeting family is nothing like meeting a stranger. There is so much in common and such a natural interest that the friendship progresses rapidly. I already knew this was someone I could hang out with. I was only there for one night and we even found time to collaborate on some music! It was exciting to know I had a cousin out there like this guy and that the door was now open to visit each other and become better friends. The strange thing was that meeting Jason had completely changed the way I felt about seeing everyone else.
After that night I knew I wanted to meet my family. There was no way I’d miss that opportunity. What had started in my head as a slight possibility was now becoming one of the most important parts of the trip…