Who I Am

This weekend was a wonderful reminder of exactly who I am.

I am an Elizabeth. One of the many Elizabeth’s in my family. I was named for an Elizabeth and handed that name to my own daughter. It means something to be part of something. And being an Elizabeth is something. No matter where I go or how many times my name has changed-that’s who I am.

I am a daughter, a granddaughter, a cousin, a mother, a sister, a niece and an aunt. That’s what I am. This weekend I got to be all of those things again.

I am me. This weekend that was enough. This weekend I slipped right into place and my place helped complete a 70+ piece puzzle. There were 70 of us standing on the rock stairs of my Nanny’s house for the first family photo we’ve had since I was 12 or 13. Seventy. And I had a place. We all had a place. It took each of us to make that picture whole.

I am the one that used to slide down this bannister. That shine isn’t from being polished. It’s from years of wear and tear as little fanny’s slid down its length. How many times did I laugh and giggle as I swooshed down to the bottom? This weekend I literally got to walk down memory lane as I wondered up the stairs and thru each room. I could hear the faint echo of giggles from years of cousin-chasing that happened up the stairs, down these halls and down the stairs in the back.

This weekend I was part of group of cousins again. They teased and I laughed. They dared and I did. It was like 25 years had evaporated. We were young and carefree and happy to be together…even if it was just for a weekend. But it was also a bigger group. Those 25 years had added something. The years had given us a bigger group to ‘play’ with. Second cousins joined first cousins…the laughs got longer and louder and the group got more rambunctious and I loved it. It was the first weekend that my son and daughters got a glimpse of what it was truly like to be a Hayes cousin. And I treasure that they got to experience it. The next time when we pull up to my to my aunt’s house they won’t whisper, “Mama, I don’t think we can be here. We weren’t invited.” They won’t stand quietly in the corner, out of the way the next time. They’ll remember playing ‘pong’ in the front yard. They’ll remember what it was like to be teased and taunted. They’ll remember this weekend and they’ll always understand what it means to have a place to belong. Now they will understood what it was to grow up with this group of people.

This weekend I got to slip behind the wheel of the car that my dad re-built. The same car I got to drive in high school and in college. My dad and daughter were in the back and we were cruising with the top down. I was 16 again. Only this time I appreciated it all so much more.

This weekend I got to be the ‘tacky cousin’ in her cupcake shoes. “Who wears shoes with stuffed strawberries on them?!” someone asked. Before they could finish the thought someone else said simply, “Libby.” As if that one word explained everything. And I guess that it did because the other person nodded and moved away. And that was that. They were right, I am the one that will wear a goodwill dress and bedazzled shoes and love every minute of it. And in this house, this place with these people it was okay to be Libby with the funky shoes.

Who I am is the girl that used to hear a truck engine rev and go flying out of house allowing the front screen door to SMACK in my haste to get to the red-pick-up truck where my grandpa waited to take us to the ice cream store. We all felt as if we had to hurry because Grandpa would be grumbling about trying to sneak off. Arms and legs would be flying as we jumped over the side of the truck or climbed up the tailgate as we all piled into the bed of that truck. There would be some pushing and shoving but eventually the cousin hierarchy would kick in…oldest against the bed of the truck, little ones against the cab and the in-betweens perched on the wheel well. On summer days the littlest ones sat on laps while the bigger ones pretended that the searing heat didn’t make the metal too hot to sit on. Eventually we all found a place and off he’d go. This weekend I realized that grandpa was never really trying to sneak off. I bet he sat in that truck and revved the engine until we all heard it. Grandpa loved taking us to the store as much as we loved going.
This weekend my baby girl came riding to Nanny’s perched in the back of my Dad’s truck. After I quit panicking I realized that she was doing something that I had done long, long ago. She was with her hero, her grandpa, just as I used to be with mine. A few hours later my Dad pulled back up in a jeep. This time he had all of his granddaughters. They got out giggling about diet cokes and candy and my heart almost burst to know that they would have the same memories of this place that I did…sneaking off for treats with their grandpa.

I am an in-between cousin. Not the oldest but not part of the younger group either. I was the youngest of the eldest clique. As I was wondering around the yard yesterday I heard a ‘tween cousin say to another ‘tween, “They think they can just go. They get to drive. They get to go to the lake. How come they get to do all that? They aren’t so old…just a year older than me. It’s not fair!” I laughed as I moved away from the disgruntled fellows. They were the youngest of the eldest group of the next generation of cousins. ‘Been there, done that’ I wanted to say.

More than once this weekend I was told, “You look just like your beautiful, Mama!” I’ve always looked like a Hayes so it took me by surprise. But after the 3rd or 4th time I heard that I realized that I am both…a Hayes and an Eddy and this weekend I just happened to look like both. It’s who I am. I have the lazy Hayes eye that changes shape with we are tired and the clap-clap-clap get ‘er done attitude of the Eddy clan. Both came into play this weekend.

What I am is also old. This weekend I remembered that a bit too. I was 16 or so when my cousin Sam was born. I spent the afternoon she was born riding in my cousins VW bug while we waited on her to arrive. This same girl was my partying partner Saturday night. I was also there when Minder-Mander was born. I walked the halls all night waiting on her to make her entrance. She made my drinks Saturday as the totally-in-charge-BA-bartender. She also brought me to tears when she slipped from behind the bar to sing. Ah-maze-ing. My best friend in college was a 7 year old girl. We were inseparable and rode around in that convertible mustang all one summer. She was part of the party group on Friday and Saturday. It was bizarre to be surrounded by amazing, beautiful and accomplished WOMEN that I always thought of as girls-my girls in a a way.

More than once I was complimented on my children. Nothing could make me happier. I work hard to make them the best little people I can and it’s nice to know that some of it is “sticking”. I am proud of my babies and proud to be a mama. Hearing kind words about my little ones assured me that what I am-a mom-is what I am meant to me.

This one is hard to write. I almost can’t. But I also learned this weekend…pause…gulp…what I am is a writer. (I will not faint-I will not faint). I had people I didn’t know tell me that they read, and enjoyed, my blog. It’s one of the things I am most proud if. Both of writing and of being read.
And I know that grammatically I am an idiot. I also understand that it’s not commas and semi-colons that make you a writer. I type these all on my phone so I hope anyone reading will forgive a typo or 2.

I was also very aware this weekend of all that was missing. To be who I am I have to give credit to some special people. People that should have been there to make the weekend whole. believe that they were there perched high on their mountain looking at us and smiling. They are missed and not forgotten. They are part of who I am and I wouldn’t be who I was without them.

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