I've swam in the Great Barrier Reef. I've climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I've seen the Opera House. I've even been to Indonesia... But these past five days in Melbourne have been my favorite trip, by far. It cannot even be put into words the amount of welcomeness and love I've been shown over the past couple of days here, and how happy my heart has truly been.
I've been staying with my Great Aunt Audrey, who is my paternal grandmother's sister. My dad's mother and my grandmother, Dorothy, passed away ten years ago too soon. She was a remarkable Australian women, who fled to the United States after marrying a U.S. soldier she had met and fell in love with in Brisbane, Australia. She married my grandfather and left Australia at age 19, never seeing most of her family there again. My Great Aunt Audrey told me the story as I sat and tried to hold back my tears, in such awe of my family's history. My grandmother Dorothy birthed six children in America, my dad being one of them. I miss my grandmother dearly, and still hear wonderful stories of her to this day from my dad and his siblings; and now from her own sister.
As soon as I was greeted by my Aunt Audrey and cousin, Ebony in the Melbourne airport, my heart was filled with warmth. It sounds so cheesy, but I was the happiest I had been in a very long time. My cousins took me shopping, took me all over Melbourne, I drove all around Melbourne (which is exciting because the steering wheel is on the other side and the sides of the road are opposite as America), I went to a concert, went hiking in the mountains and visited several of my relatives' homes. Being in Melbourne helped me to see how crucial family truly is. I have met almost all of my cousins here, and each one of them has had an immense impact on me in such a short amount of time.
My Great Aunt Audrey has to be the most beautiful and most remarkable person I have ever met. She was a famous ballerina back in her day, and is still legendary throughout Melbourne, Sydney and even in London. She reminded me so much of my grandmother. It brings me to tears just typing this, because when she spoke, I heard my grandmother, Dorothy. She resembles her so much, but of course she would because they are sisters. She welcomed me into her home as if I was her own, and did so much for me over a short period of time. The day I arrived, she arranged an amazing brunch where my cousins came from all over Melbourne to welcome me and get the chance to finally meet me after 20 long years. I was so tired from traveling all night by train and then by plane, having 0 amount of sleep; but the fact that I was meeting my blood-relatives in Australia was enough to keep me wide awake. My cousins were more fascinating than I could have ever imagined they would be.
I have SO many cousins. I didn't even get a chance to meet all of them, but I met about 10 of them during my stay. My cousins in Australia are amongst the most talented of people I've ever gotten to know. My cousin Adam, decided to follow his dream of being a musician and came up with his own band and label, with a recording studio in his basement. Elizabeth is an environmental scientist in Tasmania, deeply passionate about saving wildlife. Priscilla (Pill), rides and owns horses as a trick rider near the Gold Coast. Ebony is training for the 2016 Olympics taking place in Brazil as a swimmer holding one of the highest times in the world for the breaststroke. Bridie just won Battle of the Bands singing with her band in Melbourne and will go on to compete in a state-wide band competition. Rosa is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met, inside and out, and has traveled Europe for her amazing vocals. Olivia is traveling as a ballerina, going to high school at the Royal Ballet School of New Zealand. Daniel had just returned from the Outback doing volunteer work at an Aboriginal site in Alice Springs. The list goes on and on. These people were the kindest, smartest, and most genuine people that I am so blessed to call my family.
The week in itself was an emotional one for me. Being away from my family in Delaware for 2.5 months has not been too easy. There are days where I just want to hug my mom and eat one of her home-cooked meals. There are times where I wish my dad could just tell me a joke and brighten up my mood like he does so well. Yes, I LOVE traveling the world, but I miss my family dearly. So staying in Melbourne really hit me right in the heart. It made me feel at home, and it made me feel so loved being surrounded by such kind people that were my family. Also, knowing that I was making my dad proud made me beyond delighted. He has never had the chance to come to Australia and visit his family, so knowing I was honoring his mother and his heritage as well as my own, made me overjoyed. It also ironically turned out that the day when I left Melbourne, was my grandmother Dorothy's birthday. I strongly felt her presence with me in Melbourne and I knew that she was in heaven smiling down at me.
Within 5 days, I learned so much about the history of my family and even more about myself. I realized how special family really is to me. I've always known that family comes first, but staying with my relatives in Australia made me appreciate the meaning behind family. Family is something that is forever, and it's very important to stay close to them. Now I can leave Australia in 2 months with memories that will last a lifetime, as well as new relationships made within my own family. I am so grateful for the experience I had in Melbourne and it is one that will forever stay close to me and within my heart.