Friday, October 9, 2015
The Witch is Back
Instead, I think my trip read more like a nightmare.
When I got back yesterday morning, I started drafting a blog entry about my expedition to Florida where I did indeed learn more about my roots. Unfortunately, writing it was difficult from start to finish.
How did I speak about a trip that I, for the better part, did not enjoy? How much of my family's dirty laundry did I air, if any? Should I just fake the entry and say I had a good time?
But I swore I'd never lie to my readers so, come hell or high water, here's, with variable omitting, the truth of my "vacation."
At 27, I've never been on a plane. I know, I know, shocker. But my immediate family never really vacations and my husband and I are playing the classic Millennial student loan juggle so we just drive everywhere instead. The plane ride was probably one of two highlights on my trip.
I took the trip with my mom to visit my aunt and meet her new (ish) husband. Instead, I found I spent more time with her two lovable Schnauzers. You know what I love about dogs? They have no politics and no religion. They don't care if you are white or black or brown or anything in between. They give nothing but unconditional love. While it took her second dog a bit of time to warm up to me (mostly because I avoided the patio where my family chain-smoked for the first 48 hours), this little gal was my best friend from the moment she saw me. She sated the void created by this being the first vacation I've taken without my Artemis.
The wildlife you could see just from the lanai was amazing. Everything from woodpeckers to cranes to hawks, giant grasshoppers and little lizards. My mom has a better camera than I do, so it made taking these shots incredibly enjoyable (even when I was routinely volunteered to do it).
I did do some shopping while I was there. I picked up this cute shell necklace at a store in Tarpon Springs for $4, which made me feel a bit like Ursula. This necklace became my lifeline, my reminder that not all things were bad. I also bought some items for my circle, a ton of spice blends for my food-savvy husband and found a little Zeus figurine that completes my figurine collection of my familiars.
We also took a trip to the beach. Unfortunately, the bacteria from this exact beach that killed a 26-year-old autoimmune patient a few months ago made me leery to touch the water, particularly because I had blisters on my feet from walking. I instead opted to stand back and take photos, once again finding myself the odd person out from my family.
I did learn more about my heritage. My mom was too young and too sheltered to find out much from my grandfather on it, but my aunt was old enough to overhear stories and conversations between my grandfather and great grandfather. Virgil was a name my great grandfather took after walking off of a Blackfoot reservation. Full-blood Native American, he married white money, changed his name and burned his papers to "walk the white man's ladder." My grandfather, half-native, made a firm stance that none of his children would learn about their lineage. While Virgil (Youngclaw) wanted to teach my mom and her siblings the language and where they came from, my grandfather felt that such "useless" knowledge would only make them less white. So my mom grew up fairly unaware of her roots - only that she was Native. In fact, Blackfoot natives had a stereotype of being violent, so my mom was told we were part Cherokee. My aunt knew from conversations that this wasn't true - but she was also so young that she thought being Blackfoot meant having literal black feet. And all of this makes me 1/8th Blackfoot.
It's not much, but it's certainly an identity crisis of sorts. I've known my entire life that I'm part Native American, but I always thought it was far less. My mom is routinely mistaken for being Hispanic. When I was younger, because she's so dark skinned and I got my dad's German white skin, others would think she was my nanny. It made no difference that our faces look exactly the same. I was born with blonde hair, green eyes, paper-white skin and a German build. The only trace of my Native lineage is in my high cheekbones and nose. My aunt, on the other hand, looks so Blackfoot that it's hard to think she's only a fourth. So I knew it was in there somewhere. I just didn't know how much. I don't know if 1/8th is anything particularly substantial but it confirms in my head where I'm from.
This was the only especially meaningful conversation I had with my relatives. In truth, I spent a lot of time by myself or in my own head. As open as I would like to be about the trip, some highly offensive things that were said simply can't be repeated on a public forum. Some of the treatment I received, particularly pertaining to my chronic illness, was abhorrent. What I did learn is that this apple fell from the tree and rolled far, far away. I should probably consider cutting the cord that still connects me to that tree at a later date.
Don't get me wrong, there were definitely highlights. The unfortunate reality is that most of those highlights did not involve my family. For example, I met up with a friend of mine, Heather, to go to Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. Three parks in nine hours was the cause of all my blisters but it was totally worth it!
Heather and I met when I networked with her husband (then boyfriend) as a caricature artist. We became especially close friends online over several, several years. When I found out I was going to Florida, I couldn't miss the chance to actually meet them.
Sometimes, meeting friends from online can be horribly awkward in person. This was absolutely not the case with us three. Heather and I were finishing each other's sentences, speaking in surround sound and were actually mistaken for being sisters while in the park. On the way home, her husband and I reminisced about people we mutually knew as caricature artists, joked about the area, found we had a mutual love of the same kind of music and got along perfectly.
I can't wait to scoop together some cash and drag my husband down there to meet them. Maybe next year!
The minute my eyes met Kansas City on the plane ride home, I cried. I've missed my city and the people in it. I learned that my chosen family is the kind of family I not only need but deserve. Fellow circlemate Andrea took us to the airport and circlemate Phaedra took my mom home, then dropped me off at my new house. I'm so appreciative that this ridiculous trip was sandwiched by people I love and who love me. And seeing my pets, husband and roommate again made it all worthwhile.
Of course, now, I have another interesting adventure to tackle. But that's for another time.