Most all of my mother’s side of the family grew up in Graham County, N.C., near the small town of Robbinsville.
Today, Robbinsville is a tourist attraction noted for the beauty of its mountains and outdoor life and its proximity to the Cherohala Skyway, a scenic mountain highway, and the Tail of the Dragon, an 11-mile stretch of road from Tennessee into Graham County used by motorcycles and sports cars. The road is known for its 318 curves.
Nearly 60 years ago, none of that mattered to a young boy who had to “endure” a three-or-four-hour drive (it seemed like days) to visit relatives in Robbinsville. Today, with better roads, the trip is slightly over two hours.
As far as I was concerned, Robbinsville was the “uttermost” end of the earth as described in Scripture.
And, it didn’t get much better once we arrived.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved my great grandparents and aunts and uncles that we always visited. We were treated and fed extremely well. Most of them did not have television, or if they did, I never watched anything there.
For a boy from age 5 through 9 or so, it truly seemed like Robbinsville was in the middle of nowhere.
Yet, as I look back, I do remember playing in the creek across from one of my great uncles’ houses and the family reunions that were held regularly.
It didn’t mean much then, but now at age 65, I have a different perspective. Those memories and days gone by are so much more important to me now than when they occurred.
My great grandparents, my grandfather and his three brothers are now gone and in heaven but in June of this year, the siblings of his family arranged for a reunion at my great uncle’s house.
His wife, Helen Louise, now in her 90s, is the only remaining member of that generation. She and her children, Rachel and Sidney, opened up their property to more than 100 descendants of Frank and Bessie Wilkey, my great grandparents.
My entire family, including my son and daughter and their spouses and children, made the trek to Robbinsville.
Some of us rented a cabin less than a mile from my great grandparents’ house, which still stands.
I can’t help but note the irony. I paid money to return to the place I dreaded going to as a child. What’s more is the fact that the trip was more than worth what we paid.
Our grandkids played in the same creek I played in as a kid. They had a blast.
The reunion was great as well, and I reconnected with relatives I had not seen in years. It was a wonderful time of fellowship, fun and amazing food.
While there, we also visited one of my mother’s first cousins (Lavina) on her mother’s side of the family and had a great time. She had some amazing pictures of my grandmother (Mom) and her siblings. Lavina and her husband, Sherman, made us feel so welcomed.
Sherman is an amazing woodworker and he gave my grandsons puzzles of the whale that swallowed Jonah (yes, I know the Bible describes it as a big fish) but he made what is commonly accepted. Take the puzzle apart and Jonah is actually inside. It was an amazing piece of craftsmanship.
The three-day trip was an incredible journey down memory lane. It was almost as if I could hear my grandparents laughing at how much I enjoyed the trip, remembering how much I complained about having to go when I was a kid.
Our roots are important. Who we are today is dependent a great deal on those who have gone before us.
Robbinsville is not only the place of my physical roots, it is where my spiritual roots began as well. My grandparents, especially my grandmother, were influential in me coming to know Christ as my Lord and Savior.
God blessed me with my earthly ancestors and I know one day I will be reunited with them in heaven along with so many I don’t even know. Once we accept Christ, we become a part of the larger family of God. What a reunion that will be! B&R