Talk about “ALLLLL the feels” for a post! I STILL get goosebumps when I think about how perfect of a season God set Kim and I up for. Not only did we get to reunite in one of the most magical cities in the world (NYC), but because of where we were, I was going to get to introduce Kim to some of the most important people in my life AND show him my roots…Central New York State.
Some could argue, I’d been waiting to do this for 30 years – well, at least 17 years – since the very first moments I began to first think about marriage & sharing my life with my one true love.
To start things off with a bang, first up to meet, was the one and only, Mrs. Grace Stolar. She’d gotten to talk to Kim many times of FaceTime, but nothing could beat a face-to-face greeting. I grew up next door to my Grandma Grace – for the first 15 years of my life. Ironically, even though, I spent many years of my young adult life as a baby-sitter and nanny, I never had one myself. It was always my GRANDMA. She was in every description of the word – a second mom.
As she began to age in years, and her memory started to weaken, she continually would ask me if I’d met my man yet. Her ever present question before was: “Have you lost weight yet?” Haha, I say this in jest to show how she, like any good “grand mom”, cared about me deeply – especially with my health and my heart. She was one of my biggest supporters when it came to my weight-loss and was abundantly grateful to God for how he brought Kim and I together.
I feared, in the past few years, that I may not be able to introduce my husband to my Grandma. At 91, she’s survived many strokes and is one resillient woman. Knowing she probably wouldn’t be able to travel to our wedding, I was SO excited to introduce her to Kim in her own home, in which she’s lived for the past 65+ years.
Quite instantly, she took to my incredible husband. It may have even been love at first sight – my sweet, and typically quiet Italian Grandma quipped, “Wow, he has bedroom eyes!” I never knew how much my Grandma LOVED love until I saw her experience Kim and I. For most of my life, my Grandma has been a widow. My grandpa Joe passed away in 1992, when I was only 4, and I’ve always seen my Grandma as a strong & fearless, independent woman.
It was such a treat for ME to see her become a youthful woman again in her eyes – as I know it was for the next two fabulous people Kim had to meet – my mom’s big sister, Aunt Shirley (who’s also my Godmother) and my mom’s little brother (and dad’s best man at their wedding over 36 years ago), Uncle Ronnie.
First up was Aunt Shirley! I was most anxious to see them interact in person, as they both already practically became BFFs on the phone through FaceTime over the past few months. In fact, Shirley was the FIRST family member of mine to hear of Kim AND get to talk to him. Remember back in September when we first met? The morning after we danced all night long, the wedding party & bride & groom all walked through the Netherlands country side & I was inspired to share some of the beauty with someone back home – but who would be up at this hour?! Ah, I KNOW, Aunt Shirley! Plus, she DID ask me to show her some hot Belgians – so as a PERFECT pick up line – as I was FacetTiming her, Kim happened to be walking behind me, and I quickly quipped he was the hottest one I’d met so far and I wanted to show him off to her – after our FaceTime date with Aunt Shirley – that’s when Kim and I really first began to connect and have our first, real genuine conversation. Thanks Auntie for the instigation!
Back to the the present, the moment Shirley & Kim met it was love at first sight – as friends of course! It was as if no screen had never been between them and they were just old pals reconnecting in person. This made my heart burst! It was so awesome to see two of my most important people in my life get along so well.
Next up, was Uncle Ronnie! I have a lot of memories with my Uncle Ronnie over the years, but some of my favorites were spent over the past few months. In previous years, most of our interactions were with or around other people, usually bounced around between jokes with him and my hilarious Dad. However, in this slower paced season, I got to really get to know the MAN that Ronnie is, and I have to say, I REALLY love the guy. I can see why he and my dad became best friends and why my mom always spoke so highly of her little brother. He has such a tenacious heart for his family and would do anything for that sweet little mama of his!
Uncle Ronnie, just like any good uncle, was skeptical at first of how quickly Kim and I were moving along, but over FaceTime and then in person, he finally “got it” and felt a lot of ease seeing us together. I can happily share too, that for the first time in years, he too is extremely in love with his amazing girlfriend, Michelle. They were both so warm & welcoming to Kim – and even sent him home with his own Syracuse shirt, Go ‘Cuse!
After meeting my mom’s siblings, it was time for Kim to meet one of MY siblings – my big brother, Jay, and all his beautiful daughters…he has 5 (yes, FIVE!!!!) and even a grand daughter. My brother LOVED the fact that he was going to be able to meet Kim before our dad did – and he happily and continually rubbed it in our Dad’s face.
Jay and his girlfriend Kaylee hosted Kim and I for dinner on Sunday (the 23rd) with a large Italian feast…they already knew just the way to Kim’s heart! Immediately upon arrival, my brother was…well…my brother! A true, genuine New Yorker, with the mouth of sailor and the tender love of a daddy with lots of girls! Such a teddy bear! I think Jay and I both were pretty speechless that I was there…in his home..with my future husband. Was this all really happening?! He also couldn’t stop saying how much Kim looked like a European underwear model! Haha! Agreed!
Even with all the commotion of so many little ones running around and a lot of fast talkers with sports also on the TV, Kim fit right in. Per usual, all the little girls gravitated towards him – and I melted in a puddle of happiness watching it all go down.
Later in the evening, my elder nieces, Breanna & Kaley, and my brother and Kim, all played the ” heads up” game and further bonded over sports, music and movies trivia. Kim and I both left that night with a sore core – from all the laughing!
The next morning was Christmas Even – and that meant a day full of tradition! Not just taking Kim to the church and pastor that I grew up with, but also introducing him to most of my Dad’s siblings at one of America’s finest dining establishments – Cracker Barrel! I told Kim to prepare to leave with a full belly – once again!
It was so awesome hanging out with so many Lents all at the same time! Since moving to Florida in 2003, I very often only see my Aunts and Uncles maybe once a year. Thank God for text and FaceTime. Kim & I felt like a real royal couple, as we sat center stage at the long table, and answered questions about our future and listened to stories of my Dad’s childhood and how alike we are. People kept telling Kim – “Apple don’t fall far from the tree!” I proudly resemble that remark!
After brunch, I drove Kim around the town I grew up in – Central Square, NY.
Population: 3,300. Just a tad different than Los Angeles. I was like a kid in a candy store taking him down memory lane…showing him where I scored my first home runs, where I went to school, where marched in band, met for Girl Scouts and even where my Grandfather was buried. I mostly loved having him on the street I grew up on – where the loudest sounds were the creaks of the wind through the bare trees. It’s still so so calm and peaceful there – we both agreed that we look forward to many more trips back to this place.
On Christmas Eve night, I got to take Kim to the church I grew up in, where he got to meet so many of his new “fans” – my childhood pastor Ken, the man who really helped teach Christian leadership to my parents, my Sunday school teacher, Charlotte and even one of our biggest prayer warriors, Mary.
The next day was Christmas – and it was a very bittersweet morning! As excited as we were to spend the morning with Grandma & my Uncle Ronnie, Aunt Michelle and Aunt Shirley and Uncle Ray, it also meant we were going to have to say goodbye and start our road trip adventure. We started the morning with everyone enjoying my Christmas Morning specialty – baked French Toast! It was so good – even Grandma asked for seconds! (If you want the recipe, message me!)
After breakfast, and before opening a few gifts, we had a very special surprise for my Grandma….we knew she unfortunately wouldn’t be able to travel to our wedding in a few weeks, and so Kim & I decided to put on our wedding outfits for her specifically so she could see with her own eyes what we would look like on our special day.
However, to keep up the element of surprise for us both, as neither Kim nor I wanted to see each other in our outfits BEFORE our wedding day, we got creative, and took pictures with my Grandma separately, and then together – but with each other on different sides of the wall.
Kim took photos with Gram first. I knew by the exclamations from my aunts and the tears in their eyes that my man LOOKED GOOOOOD! IT took everything in me not to run around the corner and check him out for myself.
Just seeing the glow in my Grandma’s eyes made this entire morning worth it! She has always been such a present to me and I was so touched and honored to be able to give this moment to her.
Before we knew it, it was time to leave my family and say goodbye to Upstate New York. As beautiful as this day had already been, I had no idea what awaited us this Christmas evening, as we began our road trip and journeyed towards our first stop: Niagara Falls.
As we said our final goodbyes, and shared many kisses, hugs and tears, Kim & I both agreed that already – THIS was a trip of a LIFETIME for us both.