(photo of US at the Blue Ridge Mountains, taken by Aaron!)
Almost exactly 5 years ago my buddies and i planned a road trip to GA to see Landon's fam and get the heck out of CO and busy studies for Spring break. Landon and i had been dating for a month, though the trip had been planned since before we were "together". Brandon bailed at the last minute to go to Texas with a girl he had a crush on (Love you, Maryn!) and some other friends...nerd. So it was just the 3 of us: Aaron, Landon, and I.
We drove all night long from CO to Missouri where i met Justin and Anna for the first time! They had just bought their house and i remember that while Aaron and Landon slept, i got to talk to Anna and get to know her a bit. How sweet. Then we drove off to GA and i met the McBrayers for the first time! We went straight to the lodge in Jasper and arrived there at dark. The drive up the dirt road onto the property was bordered by trees still flickering from a controlled burn (at the time i was almost in tears - one of landon's favorite places on earth had caught fire!?).
When we got there, the only person in the ginormous lodge was Peyton. He was smoking a cigar and drinking a beer alone on the back porch - bearded and just chillin out, i was frankly terrified of him. He and Landon saw a light in the woods so Landon left to check it out. So now i'm alone with Peyton. We didn't make small talk. we just stood there looking across the lake at the light flickering in the woods.
That night I also got to meet Mike, Charleen, Preston, Haley, and Ann, and that was it. My new family (though i didn't know it at the time), had embraced me with such love and were already initiating me with the McBrayer sarcasm (nothing else on earth quite like it). That trip, my first time to Georgia, my first time with the McBrayers, i ruined the propellers on the boat and broke the botchie-ball (HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN!?)
On the way home from that week in Georgia (and a few days in NC), Landon told me that he loved me. WOW! We were engaged 3 months later and married within the year. That trip to his home really solidified a lot for us. He could see me there, in his life, in his home, in his family...and so could i.
We're headed in that South-bound direction again today. We are going to celebrate Haley and Joel's marriage with family and feasting!!! (Though landon says people called the McBrayers "the squirrel family" in his childhood, i always look forward to the food there!). Some southern bbq, sweet tea, ambrosia, and chick-fil-a! And even more, the company of (DEARLY) loved ones! Preston got married 10 months ago to LeAnn and now with Joel, the family seems complete. It's perfect. Of course, the kiddies are still piling on, making the family into a great "McBrayer Nation" (who started that joke?).
I am so excited to be in the company of family. Soon! (15hrs-ish from now!)