Or should I say Uncle Jeff?
Is there a point in your adult life when you stop calling uncles Uncle (proper noun)? I'm not sure about that. But I do know that as long as I've been calling you Uncle Jeff, you've been filling those uncle shoes (be they sneakers, farm boots or hiking shoes) and making me feel like a beloved niece, all the way across the country.
I hesitate to say my first memory of you is your wedding, because it's less a memory and more snapshots in my mind (more recently, also video from Aunt Eileen's archives) and stories I've been told about tearing around in a tiny dress and pitching fits about not being able to jump in the pool. It's so great to look back on those pictures, when you and Aunt Sue were younger than I am now, and imagining all of the Beckwiths gathering in the sunshine for the big occasion.
My more recent (and fully cohered) memories with you include your trips to Vermont and Queensbury when I was young. We explored Saratoga State Park, the Great Escape and the backyard at Grandma and Gail's. We dipped our feet in the creek and ate hotdogs from the grill. I remember looking forward to a visit from the Washington Beckwiths with great anticipation. We always made sure to make the most of these visits, no matter what the agenda.
As I grew older, I came to appreciate another tradition from Uncle Jeff and Aunt Sue - the very punctual, very hilarious, very personalized (and eventually potentially lucrative) birthday card with Washington State lottery ticket. I strive to be as on the ball as you guys with your birthday wishes. I see my dad is trying to up his game these days, and this letter writing campaign has me on my toes, but I've got a ways to go.
Not only have you made our birthdays a special one every year, you guys have always done a fun, over the top, interactive and highly entertaining Christmas extravaganza at the family Christmas party - from 3000 miles away. One of my favorites was the social media quotes from family members trivia game. We learned so much about each other that day, and won some amazing (and perhaps also over the top) prizes in the process.
You and Aunt Sue are definitely masters of the celebration game, the creativity game and as we learned this past summer - the cooking and camping games. Dylan and I jumped in our rented Ford Focus and embarked on a week-long journey to Enumclaw for our very first visit to the Beckwith Farm, downtown Seattle and the Washington coast.
It was a magical few days, when I realized that my family members are some of the coolest people I know (including some very favorite aunts who were along for the ride.) I loved getting to know Jess and Jake better on their turf - around their city - and getting to just sit, eat, drink and relax with you guys.
You have a beautiful house, and we were so lucky to get to spend a few nights soaking in the gorgeous landscape and hospitality that ran the gamut from a house guide (including the names of the pigs and steers) to a plethora of home cooked meals with farm fresh ingredients. The thought kept going through my head (and probably out of my mouth more than once) -
THEY MADE THIS FOOD WITH THE EARTH AND THE ANIMALS.
I am still in awe.
We loved touring Seattle with you guys - a city I'd visit again in a heartbeat. And we got another day of adventure on the coast, staying in our very first yurt. Talk about doing it right. When we were packing the cars for our trip further west, I was so impressed at your Boy Scout level of preparation and sheer lifetime acquisition of gear.
And when we sat around the fire that night, swapping stories, playing games and sipping stout, I was overcome with the joy that my family on the West Coast was just how I’d remembered them - fun, hip, generous and pretty much ready for any adventure life has in store.
I've tried not to get too sappy here. But I will just sum up all of these observations and memories and declarations with this. Despite the distance, I've always felt close to you. You make everyone laugh. You make us feel special. I know we all appreciate the interest you take in our lives and what we're up to. I am so beyond happy that you got to meet Dylan, and I will always look forward to our next adventure. Forever in admiration, and awaiting your next visit,