Bear Paw Memories - My Family Travels

Imagine a blue cloudless sky, a crisp November breeze, and a winding road hidden in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains. The trees displayed their wardrobe of leaves bursting with an array of yellows, reds, and burnt oranges as we continued to drive toward our Thanksgiving destination. My mom and dad sat in the front seat of the car, navigating the mountain roads, while my younger brother and I occupied the back seat and anticipated the arrival of our older brother, cousins, grandmother, aunts and uncles who would all come to spend Thanksgiving at the Bear Paw Lodge. Before our arrival, the expectations of a luxurious cabin, nestled in the woods, filled each family member’s minds with pictures of large rooms, king sized beds, and a huge kitchen to prepare the holiday meal. Despite our expectations, this was not the image we encountered. But as the family reunion began, so did a collage of unexpected surprises, funny moments, lessons learned and above all, memories made.  
        Upon our arrival, each family member’s car circled the gravel driveway of the pine wood cabin. It was extremely quaint, very plain, and as we entered, each person thought the same thing; how are the twelve of us going to spend five days in a cabin of this size? It was nestled in the woods alright, but it did not meet the pictures we had in our minds. Inside, the cabin was unnaturally stuffy. The whole cabin had one enclosed room, two closet sized bathrooms, and open sleeping quarters containing an upstairs with two sets of bunk beds, and one queen sized bed. On the main level was the kitchen and, to our surprise, it was the smallest of all the rooms! This kitchen could scarcely fit two people let alone all the food we had brought with us. The funniest part was Thanksgiving Day watching my mother, her sister, and my uncle’s wife debating over how to keep this fifty pound turkey from popping out of the nearly “doll-house” sized oven. Because of the cold weather outside and the warmth of the inside, my oldest brother spent his time cooped up in his bunk bed sick and coughing while in the middle of the night, my grandmother could be heard, almost every two hours, scraping her walker across the wooden floors toward the porch to take a smoke. One of my cousins decided not to even bother sleeping inside pitching a one man tent in front of his truck. Occasionally, our Cuban personalities collided as my grandmother, of seventy eight, worried over the disappearance of her forty six year old son who just happened to make a run to the store. 
       However, it was not until the third night, as the whole family gathered around a blazing bon-fire, that we began to shed our inhibitions. Laughing hysterically, creating one line adventures that made up a circle of stories, and roasting marsh mellows were all a part of that night. Looking up at the stars made for a fantastic scene as they bedazzled the sky. At that moment, this family reunion became everything but stereotypical. Some highlights were climbing to the top of a spectacular waterfall and hiking the trails surrounding the cabin. We even managed to squeeze six people into a four person hot tub!
       A change of heart took place that Thanksgiving as the importance of fancy accommodations began to fade. Relationships were renewed and, through comical experiences, lasting memories were made. It was there we learned to be truly grateful for the beauty painted in nature and the love one family can hold. 

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