Sunday was family day in Sheffield, UK.
Shortly after her stroke in May, my cousin Doreen had reconnected with our Aunt Jackie and her son Warren and his family through a phone conversation. Warren then invited her to visit when she was near Sheffield. As she lives in Brighton, four hours away, it seemed the visit would likely be far in the future. However, just a few months later, Doreen planned a trip up to visit and stay with Steve and I in Lincoln, just a bit more than an hour from Sheffield. She called Warren and he invited all three of us over to see his new home and to meet his daughter and son. His wife was away visiting her mom. Funny thing is that I reconnected with Warren last October at our cousin Brad’s 50th birthday party. We traded phone numbers and email addresses and were trying to find a date that we could all get together for a visit.
One of my favourite television series is “Who Do You Think You Are?” Each episode traces the family history of a well-known personality, with very interesting twists and turns, often going back hundreds of years. We were about to embark on our very own exploration.
The three of us drove west out of Lincoln on the A57. It was a beautiful Sunday morning – a great day for driving through the countryside. Our first stop was my cousin Warren’s home. Warren and his son Ben were waiting to greet us, and his daughter Sarah, returning from a hockey game, joined us shortly after. Their new house is big and beautiful with a fabulous view of the countryside.
Warren’s mom, Jackie came over to visit us. As Warren showed us around the house he pointed out a silver trophy that he had won at a golf tournament. The inscription was what made it extra-special – it is in memory of Lionel Picker, our uncle.
After much conversation, I brought out the picture album of our son Jonathan and Elizabeth’s wedding that took place in California on February 26, 2011. It had pictures of my mom and dad, Jonathan and Elizabeth, our younger son Joshua, and my sister and her family, so I was able to bring my family to them through these pictures and tell them all about what they are doing now.
My cousin Warren and I spent time reminiscing about when we were young. We first met at a family gathering in the summer of 1969, on my first trip to England. I was thirteen years old and Warren was nine. It was my mom’s first trip back to visit her family (her dad’s side of the family) in sixteen years, since she had emigrated to America. My mom came from a big family as most did in those days. You can imagine all of the parties and family dinners they had to introduce us to the whole family. It was during that trip that I became very close to all of my English aunts, uncles, and cousins.
After that trip I spent many summers in England visiting and getting to know them and sharing many happy times and creating special memories that I will always treasure. I introduced my husband Steve and our sons Jonathan and Joshua to our English relatives over twenty years ago on our first family trip to England when the boys were only four and seven. They have been back to visit everyone a number of times throughout the years and have a close connection to their aunts and cousins. Technology has evolved through the years as well. When I was young I can remember what a big deal it was to make an international call to talk to the relatives. Now everyone can connect on Facebook and see and talk to each other on Skype, for free.
Warren invited us to the Norfolk Arms for lunch where we continued our conversations and stories. After a delicious and authentic English pub lunch, Jackie invited us back to her house for tea and dessert. Warren had to leave to attend a friend’s graduation party with his children. We hugged each other and said that we are looking forward to our next visit with them.
When we arrived at Jackie’s house she rang her daughter Helena, who just happens to live next door to her, to come over and see us. I had not seen my cousin Helena in years and yet when I saw her, we hugged and seemed to pick up where we left off so long ago. I introduced my husband Steve to her and she introduced her husband Andre to me. We all sat down in the lounge sipping our tea and telling stories of when we used to hang out together as teenagers on my visits to England. We showed them pictures of our sons Jonathan and Joshua and our new daughter-in-law Elizabeth and she showed us pictures of her two daughters Rachel and Hannah. You could feel the energy level rise as we talked about our grown kids to each other.
We were surprised to find out that her husband is from Lincoln and that they come out to the Lincoln area on occasion to visit his family, making it easy for them to drop in for tea and more conversations and stories.
As we were leaving Jackie’s house, we took a few minutes to drop by the neighbours two doors down. These neighbours are our friends Ian and Carole, whom we just spent a week with in Antibes, France. Some people think that I know everyone in England, but it just seems that way. Ian answered the door and invited us in for a quick story. Carole was in France visiting her mom. Ian told us that my other cousins Chelle and Ady were there just a half an hour ago – sorry we missed them. Ian was on his way out to visit a friend and we were off to visit my Aunt Lorrie in Dronfield.
We arrived at my Aunt Lorrie’s house in about 15 minutes. I wanted to reconnect her and Doreen. Steve and I visit Aunt Lorrie regularly but Doreen had not seen her in years. Doreen referred to her as Aunt Lottie, and we came to find out that Lottie is her real name, but she prefers Lorrie.
They did not stop talking about the relatives. Steve and I listened in amazement to the things that both of them remembered once they got talking. The stories of wartime, family births and deaths, and who was and wasn’t speaking to whom made for fascinating conversation. Life was far from easy in those days. We were saddened to hear how many relatives died in or shortly after childbirth, leaving their newborns to be raised by other family members.
We all left knowing a little bit more about our relatives living in Sheffield and the surrounding areas in this part of England.
During our drive home, we reminisced about the whole day and all of the relatives that we had visited with. It reminded us of how important it is to capture the memories. Technology has given us so many ways of preserving the highlights of our lives, however the memories that belonged to the last few generations are slipping away. I am so glad that we had this day together to keep the stories alive.