Shreveport-Bossier City may not be quite the bustling scene that is, say, New York, Chicago or D.C. But roadwork, traffic and crazy holiday shopping are not reserved only for big cities.
That’s why I was so glad I got to kick back in rural, south Arkansas for Thanksgiving (and my birthday). And believe me, when the nearest town in the county is Smackover – I love this place, by the way – the greater Port City area will seem a lot bigger.
My mom’s side of the family gathered at my aunt and uncle’s camp at a gorgeous bend in the Ouachita River. The camp sits atop a bluff with a great view. You can only get there (by land, at least) by taking a narrow, gravel road through a hardwood forest. This is the kind of road where you have to creep along – say 15 mph – even in a truck or SUV.
Getting to and staying at this place is not for the impatient. Along with its isolation, you can’t drink the water from the pipes (so we carry it in) and cell phone reception is sketchy.
So we did what you should do at a camp: Told stories around a fire while eating potato casseroles and apple pies brought in from the outside world. You drink straight out of the can, which comes out of an ice chest. For me, there is nothing like being with my extended family of about 50. Even when we’re repeating stories that might have been retold to us for years and our parents for decades, they still feel vital.
We talk about how my great uncle used to help my grandmother sneak out of her mom’s house on Hawai’i (before it was a state) to meet my grandfather when they were both young. Or how my mother and her seven brothers and sisters used to sleep on pallets in the back of Papaw’s truck on long rides from northwest Louisiana to his West Texas hometown.
They might seem boring, but they’re about where we’re from. That helps make us who we are.
I often have a slight worry in the back of my mind that our generation will see the end of this kind of family connection. We’re so driven to get jobs and make more money that I feel like we lose sight of what’s really important.
But maybe I’m wrong. I mean, look at these blogs. They may not be quite like campfire gatherings, but they are stories. I hope they’re at least sometimes about significant stuff – the kind of stuff our parents and grandparents would want us to remember.
Now, if only we can get wireless Internet at the camp so I can write stuff like this from out there.