Cousins! The very word conjures visions of sun-filled days–playing, laughing, water fights with the garden hose, picking briar-dense blackberries, eating olives and drinking 7Up, wading in the creek. We each have our own memories, from the summer ones to crazy Christmases with snowball fights and cozy fireside stories from Granddaddy (as he spit his tobacco into the fire between sentences.)
My friends Bob and Ruth always hosted a “cousins’ week,” at which time their four children were required to bring their progeny so that the widespread cousins would always know each other. As the grandchildren got older, the grandiosity of their plans grew from planting seeds to trips to the zoo to whitewater rafting.
As I grew up, every year brought a new cousin. When I reached 18, it seemed that the number of cousins was finished. But in the year after I had my own son, my 40-year-old aunt produced another cousin. Then an uncle divorced and remarried and gave me three more cousins. So 22 children from the original nine in my mother’s family doesn’t seem like many.
Last week I got together with the two cousins I’m closest to. Once my children were grown and gone, we’ve enjoyed more time for getting together. My remarkable husband initiated our first gathering for my 60th birthday, and the others continued it with theirs. This visit was at the Fryemont Inn in Bryson City, North Carolina.
This little arts and crafts community in the Smokies was perfect for us. We constantly were “lifting our eyes to the hills.” We ate delicious food, took a class in making baskets (and each took one home), explored the Island Park, and enjoyed an evening of storytelling about moonshining in that area.
But the best part was the conversation. Just sitting in rocking chairs on the wide front porch or chatting as we went into the small shops in the sleepy village nurtured my spirit. Hearing stories of our parents and aunts and uncles brought both laughter and a better understanding of our relatives.
We are in the three stages of adults with their parents: both of mine are dead, one has only her mother, and the youngest still has both parents. We talked about our situations and husbands, of course, but also about food, books, and travels. I talked about my children and grandchildren; they talked about their children and dogs. We shared stories of tragedy and despair, of faith and hope.
It was all so easy and relaxing–a delightful respite. I can’t wait for the next milestone birthday. Only a year and a half to wait!