"Having somewhere to go is home. Having someone to love is family. Having both is a blessing." - Unknown
Morning arrived and brought with it beautiful weather, and the introduction of an unexpected guest of the campground. While packing up the car from the inside of the tent, I heard Joe (who was towards the front of the car) start to yell and stomp his feet... this rustling was followed by a slightly higher pitched exclamation, and a car door slam. I poked my head out of the zipper door and saw a large ball of black fluff with white stripes… and a raised tail, lumbering towards our car. With a squeal of terror, I panicked about whether or not it would charge me while in the tent, and zipped myself in to take cover. After a minute or 2 the odoriferous offender ambled off towards other sites to terrorize the inhabitants. We only realized this is what happened because as time went on, more and more people down the road began exclaiming and rummaging for cover. Satisfied that we were definitively out of the blast range, we scurried about to finish packing our belongings into the safety of Hefe’s closed doors before any other friends of the forest could find their way to our site.
After brushing our teeth, we were finally ready to hit the road to come back to NY… or so we thought. As the drive wore on, we started to remember what it was like to drive the roads that lead to our home. The highways became larger, traffic sped up and increased in numbers. Horns began announcing themselves much more frequently. As the miles passed behind us, we noticed our sense of peace leaving us as well. By us, I really mean Joe… but only because New York and New Jersey drivers have a way of bringing out true road rage in him (it’s because we are inconsiderate drivers, if you must know). Navigating through the clogged highways and byways of NY and NJ, trying our best to simply enjoy the scenery of being home, and suddenly from the hum of occasional traffic there was a trumpeting of an insistent horn. Normally, if someone honks their horns, they honk until the situation deserving the honk is somewhat resolved, usually then scream something out the window and drive off furious. However, that’s not what happened. The horn continued to blare in an undeniably annoying pattern, as if whomever the driver was attempting to alert, remained unaware. Officially livid and unable to contain his rage for the discourteous welcome we were receiving, Joe broke for an exit to make his way down a different highway towards home. The horn stopped its bleating, and Joe claimed a moral victory. Then the phone rang.
Turns out, the car that we had believed was being categorically rude was actually our family. Uncle Dan and Uncle Mike were driving in from the city for the christening of Maddox also, and as it turns out, were next to us in traffic. They were so happy to see us that they forgot to use their phones to call us, and instead did what any reasonably excited person in a car would do to get attention – they honked. Hysterical laughing at our foolishness and immediately hateful response, we promised to see them shortly, and went about our drive home.
Having a little bit of time before getting home, Joe treated me to a kindness. As I mentioned previously, I am about as delicate as a bull in a china shop; in that regard traipsing all over the country had required a bit of a sacrifice – my engagement ring. During all the cavern exploring, white water rafting, and general tomfoolery, I managed to crush the prongs that supported my diamond, forcing it lean a touch to the Kildare side, and making it loose in the process. Not to mention that it had more than its fair share of dirt from various campgrounds wedged into the chips. Filthy and crushed, we brought my ring into its creators. Impressed with my uncanny talent for breaking things, they kindly offered to fix and clean it in under a half hour; just enough time for us to grab a cup of coffee in a local Starbucks, and get reacquainted with the accents and attitudes of our fellow Islanders. After reminiscing about different people we had met along our journey, we picked up my ring, and headed out to my mothers.
In a case of perfect timing, we happened to make it to my mother’s house just in time for happy hour. All five of the McKee Brood were home which was incredible, but it was crowded! Aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, and niece, all under one roof - it was wonderful to see how much of our family has grown. Admittedly, it felt strange being in the home that we had left only a few months prior, but what was even more odd is that we didn’t have a room to stay in. Truthfully, Joe and I were still on our trip, and this stop was more akin to the other family stops we made; stay for a few days visiting with everyone and then head back out. A good way to keep that going was to sleep in the Element in the driveway (Lord knows it was definitely quieter than staying in the house!) However, I’m sure it confused the neighbors to see us crawling in and out of the back.
The next day was Maddox’s Christening, and we had a phenomenal time. He was baptized at St. Patrick’s in Bay Shore, our childhood church, and behaved exceedingly well (as to be expected from our adorable madman.) Poor Natey on the other hand was having a bit of a rough go. It was right in the middle of nap time and we were forcing him to stay awake in a loud, funny smelling place, with a ton of people….and he was in dress clothes which are always uncomfortable. So, after a few family members tried and failed to soothe him, I stole him outside into the vestibule, fed him a bottle, and rocked him to sleep. So, while I was physically present in the building for Mad’s Baptism, I wasn’t actually there. Making the total number of attended christenings for my nephews - 0. Oof.
After the ceremony, we convened back to the house for the best part about baptisms: the party, which was fantastic. Since July is extremely hot, it was a good time for everyone to go swimming; tons of games, great food, and as always, an endless supply of friends and family. The party continued into the night, everyone coming and going as they saw fit as is customary for the McKee home.
We spent the next morning trying to convince the three boys to look nicely in one direction; succeeding less than we all hoped, but getting some adorable results. Chaos is the lifeblood of such a big family, and it was nice to be a part of the bustle again, however, this was a trip and we needed to keep moving – so we said our goodbyes to the McKee’s and headed further east to spent a few days with the Celeste’s.
Taking shelter in the Celeste home was a welcome calm after the whirlwind. Granny happened to be staying at the same time and it was wonderful to spend some time with her. We had a delightful couple of days visiting with everyone and it was nice to recuperate in the company of family. We used the time to sleep on an inside bed, prep our supplies, enjoy a few more hot showers, and plan the epic close of our journey. The last states we had left were in what we called “Our Comfortable Territory” aka the Northeast. These were the states that we had already spent time in, since they were close tourist attractions for people in NY. We opted to indulge ourselves to a rare treat while traveling off island, a ferry ride. We knew we were heading to Connecticut anyway, so may as well make it a fun thing to do instead of wading through hours of concrete jungle and traffic. We set up our ticket for the ferry, and relaxed before our early start to Connecticut.