Recently, Hill Country Casitas has become Party Central. And since we built it with a big party in mind, we could not be more thrilled.
My Uncle Chuck passed away recently at the solid age of 91. He was a character, a quintessential "East Texas Land Man”. Highly opinionated with no filter…and a huge heart. He kept my brothers and me entertained all our lives with his humor, smart comments and colorful language. We simply loved him. His wife, my sweet Aunt Mary Lou, asked if she could bring the family together at the Casitas and have a simple memorial service there. I was very honored and said YES.
Being of Scottish descent, when someone dies you have a bagpiper play. It’s simple. It’s what we do. So I found a bagpiper from Austin and the service was set. My two brothers flew in from Virginia, my father (my Uncle’s brother) of course is here with us, and my cousin (Chuck’s son) and his family drove down from the Dallas area. Miss Polly Ann drove in from Houston. This side of the family was together for the first time since our wedding nine years ago.
We had a wonderful time together cooking, eating, drinking, laughing, and on the day of the memorial service, we read scripture, we told stories and we listened to the bagpipes. For us Scots, the bagpiper is tradition and brings us a great deal of comfort and reminds us of who we are, where we've been and what is to come. We are Clan Robertson. So the Pavilion was the setting for a farewell to a man who lived a full life, was generous (but you wouldn’t know it), was ornery (you knew that), had many faults, but did his best to love his people. And we loved him.
A couple weeks after bidding farewell to Uncle Chuck, the Casitas hosted a large wedding party. Most of the guests were with us for a week as they came from Kenya, Ethiopia, Germany, Israel, South Korea and all over the US, among other countries – 12 total countries represented. They were here to celebrate the marriage of their friends, Melat and Luke. The couple met in Africa while doing missionary work. She is Ethiopian and he is an American that was raised in Kenya as the son of medical missionaries. They went to school in NC, so their circle of friends is international for sure.
This past Saturday night, Luke’s parents threw the big party: the Rehearsal Dinner. The Pavilion was busting with fun and about 90 party-goers! Luke’s parents catered Tex-Mex, of course, and Melat’s mother, aunt and grandma cooked traditional Ethiopian food in the Pavilion kitchen. It smelled so good. And tasted great too. The tables were dressed with silk and linen cloths stitched by hand by Melat’s mother. Beautiful flowers and pictures of the couple’s courtship were displayed. It all was simply special. The international flair was ever present, but even more so was genuine love between human beings of various colors and origins. When Luke's parents left this morning, they gave me gifts and a hug. I told them I'd see them in Kenya one day.
It’s so easy to be emotionally knocked out by the vast amounts of evil, hatred and violence found in our communities and around the world. For me, I am grateful for the Casitas and the experiences of true love and joy that they help provide. In talking with friends of the families Saturday night and their missionary work over the years, I told them “I’ve always wanted to do mission work, and one day I will!” She grabbed my hand, and said “but Mary, you are doing mission work.”
I will disagree vehemently with her and my current status of missionary, but perhaps she has a point. Perhaps playing a small role in our guests’ most special life moments, some sad, some joyous, is being missionary. It sure does bring happiness to my heart. And in my head, I can hear the piper playing “Scotland the Brave” under the shade of a Texas Oak.