Monday, March 24, 2008

One of the family

We just got back from Savannah. The whole family got to go down, see the city, and meet some of my relatives. The ones where Christopher's middle name came from.

They are my mom's family. My grandmother's sister is still alive and just turned 90. She and her late husband were like parents to my mother. Her red velvet cake is a legend in our family, as is her strength and grace.

They are what you would call country folks. That doesn't mean that they are backwards or uneducated, it means, quite literally, they live in the country.

My great aunt's land looked very different on this trip. The cow barn that was a stone's throw from the house is gone. As is the chicken coop. There is nowhere for pigs right across the road, and I couldn't see where there was a fishing pond now. There is no more farm.

Her oldest daughter is like a sister to my momma, and so even though we are cousins, I have always called her "Aunt." She takes in family like her momma did for my momma. My cousin J always had a home there when he needed one, and Uncle C was like a father to him.

Extended family in the very literal sense.

Although I've always loved them, I haven't been very close to them. Mainly because of the distance, but I think also because some of my cousins expect me to be snooty like my grandmother was to them. They expect me to look down my nose at them.

Funny thing is, the opposite is true. I look up to them - especially the women - more than any other family I have.

I spent a good deal of the visit it seemed, with my shirt pulled up and a little bird attached. This opened the conversation about nursing with my aunts. It turns out that the doctors told both of them, my great aunt and my Aunt J, that their milk was "too weak" and wasn't enough nourishment for their babies.

My great aunt fed her babies with glass bottles filled with boiled water, Carnation evaporated milk, and Karo syrup. There was commercial formula around for Aunt J's babies.

It made me wonder though, what exactly the doctors meant by "too weak." Was there too much foremilk? Were the babies just not gaining weight fast enough? Did they never seem to get full?

Whatever it was, my aunts determined that it was passed through the family, and I was the same. My milk just isn't strong enough. Aunt J was so relieved when I whipped out 2 ounces of formula on Sunday afternoon when Bird just wasn't going to nurse but was obviously still hungry.

She told him it was about time his momma gave him some real food.

Guy held his breath. He thought I would lose it.

But I didn't. I just smiled. Who am I to say? Maybe she knows something I don't. Well, she certainly knows plenty I don't about a lot of things. It was funny, what she said, and she wasn't judging me, she was just teasing me. They are a family of teasers. Hard teasers.

So there it is. Apparently, it's a Carter thing. Weak milk.

I could care less if there is science behind it. I could care less if it's even true.

I just thought it was cool to be included in the lineage. I liked them considering me to be one of "their women." I was proud to be another generation for whatever reason.

It is, however, too bad that I didn't get the hair gene. My grandmother, my great aunt, and my Aunt J didn't and haven't grayed. My grandmother's hair was a beautiful chestnut brown until the day she died at 97. My aunts' hair is lighter, but none more gray.

They are beautiful women, and I'm proud to be one of them now. And thank God for Enfamil, because the whole Karo syrup thing just sort of freaked me out.