Having not been to Atlanta since 2011, it was nice to be planning a fun holiday visiting with our extended family on Nellie’s side. This was our first official trip out there as ‘The Carrolls’. It was exactly 6 months ago that Nellie and I made a life long commitment to each other through the exchanging of vows.
It’s sometimes scary to think how quickly time passes, it seems like only yesterday when I had first asked Nellie’s father permission to marry her, and popped the question on the flight out to visit with her Dad’s family. Thankfully we got through the turbulent period of dating and found real value in one another. Now we were traveling as a pod; Nellie, Jake and Madison!
It felt great bringing Madison with us on this trip. She had grown to be quite close to Nellie’s younger sisters over the course of the long-awaited wedding week that we had this past May. With her anticipation maxed out, she couldn’t wait to rekindle her friendships, especially with Destina and Tiana. They had been face-timing and texting / calling each other for months now and for us to be going out there allowed her to grow as a person and to experience a different family setting and she relished the time with them. The running joke was that Destina who is only about a week older than Madison is her auntie, too funny.
With all the details figured out in advance, Madison helped me get all packed up the morning of the trip. Nellie completed a half day and was sure to print a voucher for the airports Park ‘N Fly, which ended up being extremely convenient, I would totally recommend it. We arrived early enough to ensure we would make it through security checkpoints and get to our gate in plenty of time to depart. Luckily my wife has clued in that I am much easier to travel with when we have the time to relax and not rush. With time to spare, I got a cup of Caribou Coffee as the girls caught a which Subway sandwich for lunch. We chose to fly with AirTran because they are a lower-cost provider and we have had a pretty good experience with them in the past. #LoveVacation – As a family, we were on our way to A-Town!
Take off and landing smoothly behind us, the three of us made our way to pickup our rental car. After getting checked out at the Hertz rental desk we began making our way to Woodstock, GA where we would be staying the next few days at the Francis household. When we arrived, we were warmly welcomed by an extremely excited Destina! She was impatiently awaiting our arrival and bugging her mom every half-hour or so until we finally got there. I carried the bags in and was greeted by the rest of the family. I feel very fortunate to have them as extended family and have come to highly respect their family. I can also tell that my wife now has a greater understanding for her step mother Auntie Lilly as she is now in a similar parent and role-model position to Madison; it has come full circle for her which is a real blessing.
We arrived the night before Thanksgiving which was nice and allowed us to find our welcome and comfortability before the big celebration. Surrounded by freshly prepared rice bread we spent the evening snacking and sharing conversation. Destina was busy showing Madison her room and her American Girl doll collection along with the family puppy, Gypsy. Meanwhile Nellie and her two sisters Dennisah and Tiana were busy catching up and discussing their different worlds with each other. I took this time to enjoy conversing with Nellie’s father Destin and getting re-acquainted. We sipped on some really dry red wine and talked family, work and life as a married man. After socializing into the late/early hours, we cashed in our chips for the night.
It was officially Thanksgiving day and after sleeping in and getting cleaned up for the day we made our way downstairs to visit with the family. The Francis home is very beautiful and they did a great job as hosts and made sure we had all that we needed. A bit later, Destin needed a hand in deep-frying a turkey and quickly I was slated with the task of cooking the bird as he ran some other errands. I was happy to help out with the cooking, but this was my first attempt at frying a bird. After a good hour of frying at 300 degrees, the bird was done and I was able to pull it out and get it wrapped up.
Family and friends started pouring through the door and quickly the basement of their house was full of boisterous laughter. Kids were running around and folks were impatiently waiting one more family member to bring the rest of the sides so that we could begin the feast.
At long last, missing family arrived and with a very nice blessing of the food by Auntie Lilly, we were let loose and gorged. I must have eaten 5lbs of the best African food and traditional American dishes. My favorites included spinach, greens, baked mac n’ cheese, turkey, and of course many different cakes and pies, YUM! After a couple of hours of being in a fairly vegetative state, I was strongly encouraged to get up and show the kids how it’s done on the trampoline. After a minor bit of showing off, I gladly relinquished the thrown to the kids. I did enjoy the warmer than normal weather that Atlanta had to offer, and spending a little time outside without a coat did feel like a luxury to this midwest boy. The remainder of the night was dedicated to watching a little football and when that wound down out came my favorite part of being married to an African queen, the music and dancing! We had some more wine and danced to PSquare and Timaya until the night wore down. I just really felt happy and relaxed, it was such a blessing to have no agenda and nowhere else to be and I had my wife and my daughter with me. #lovinglife
The next day we decided to venture out of the house and take the girls to the mall, after all it was Black Friday and we wanted to get the girls a few gifts. We made it to Lenox Mall and did some minor damage, lol. The girls got some cool clothes while I was able to get my caffeine fix at Starbucks. I officially became carrier of the shopping bags, but I didn’t mind. I was happy to watch the girls enjoying themselves so I had no complaints. Once all the excitement from our day of commerce wore down, we realized that we had worked up a serious appetite. Once we left the mall we stopped to have dinner at an Olive Garden, it was salad, pasta, pizza and bread sticks for everyone!
With full stomaches we left and headed to the Hilton DoubleTree in Roswell. Subsequent to this vacation, we met with my Mom and her life partner Matt to celebrate me turning 29 and at dinner they offered up a two night hotel stay in Atlanta that they won at a silent auction. Funny how their gracious gift worked out perfectly. The hotel was less to be desired and we were rather cramped with two double beds and way too many girls, so guess who ended up sleeping on the floor? Yup, that would be me. Before we called it a night, the girls played with their tablets and listened to music. My little sister-in-law Tiana decided to play Hunter Hayes on repeat as we went to bed, lol. It was cute for the first hour and after that it became misery to my ears.
After an uncomfortable night’s sleep for me, we got up early and headed back to the Francis household because Dennisah and Tiana had track practice that morning. Glad to see them being involved in a positive activity like this; they are both quite athletic. While they were away, Nellie and I had made a game plan to go to World of Coke with the girls after they got back.
Once they returned, we made our way downtown with the girls. My father-in-law gave us his badge so that we could get discounted tickets. Destin has worked at Coke for several years now as a financial auditor, and we were able to get a sweet deal with his help. After getting our tickets and taking a handful of selfie pictures, we got a cool introduction into the history of the company. Next we entered the main hall where they had all the various exhibits sectioned off. Our favorites were the 4-D video of Coke’s secret formula vault, which was a very cool experience. Lastly we took advantage of the ‘tasting room’ where we were able to sample over 70 different types of Coke products from around the world which was really cool. As we exited we picked up a few souvenirs and snapped a couple of family photos.
By the time we got back to their house, we had decided to drop them off and run to the hotel and checkout early and to stay our last night with the family. Nellie and I gathered our remaining items at the hotel and grabbed a warmed cookie as we exited. This also gave Madison one more night with Destina and Tiana as they had grown even closer throughout the trip. As the night wound down, we prepared for an early departure.
We had a fantastic vacation in Atlanta and couldn’t have been taken care of better by Nellie’s family. At a very early hour, we were woken up and got all that we needed loaded up and said our goodbyes. In true African fashion we took several tupperware of Thanksgiving leftovers to-go. The rest of our return trip to the Twin Cities went quite smoothly and when we finally got home we were very pleased with the time we had spent with family on this special holiday trip!