Cousins are the best when family matters

Jun. 23, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Relationships between first cousins are unlike any other. 

I've learned through the years first cousins basically never change. Even if you haven't seen them in a long time, when you get together it's as though no time has passed since the last visit.

I have more first cousins than I can count really and some I have only seen once or twice in my lifetime.

Maternally there are a dozen of us from a family of seven siblings. Three of the dozen have already done to heaven. We have regular summer gatherings and spend Christmas and Thanksgivings together. 

Paternally there were nearly 40 children — first cousins —  from the 11 children of my grandparents. Several have gone on to heaven, some as infants, other very young adults and some older. I can't begin to count the second cousins and beyond, but I know there are hundreds.

Sadly we rarely get together. The latest gathering of paternal cousins was for a funeral, which often becomes the case of our extended family. Many of us were together last year, again for a funeral. And just a week before the reunion, our first cousin, Sandy, passed away unexpected.

A couple weeks ago after promising for more than a year, I invited my paternal cousins to my house for a reunion. I didn't send out invitations, which meant some may not have heard, but we used Facebook, the telephone and word of mouth to spread the word.

We were honored to have two of my daddy's siblings there, Jim and Ola. That was special.

To get ready for the event meant cleaning my yard and making sure there was enough of this and that for everyone. 

Cutting the grass, the fields and trimming took me a long time. I even had to cut some tree limbs that were hanging over the picnic area that never bothered me, but remembering there were a few people in the family much taller than me, the limbs had to go. 

I spent hours in the yard on Thursday, Friday and even Saturday morning getting the final things ready.

It was a covered dish supper so everyone brought pot luck. My sister agreed if I'd have the reunion at my house, she'd do my cooking. Deal.

My sisters helped me, of course, bringing chairs and tables and setting up for the picnic.

We put up two large tents in the event of the rain. Fortunately it didn't rain and it was a cool evening. 

As the little children scampered around the yard, playing a few games, throwing Frisbee and the football, most of the first cousins just visited.

We actually sat very close together, side-by-side in a  circle  catching up and remembering the days when we were young and best friends.

Things that happened 50 years ago suddenly came back to memory as if they happened yesterday.

I guess it was a guy thing growing up, but we spent more time with daddy's brothers' children because obviously he spent more time with his brothers.

We talked about the times visiting our uncles' homes in Charlotte, Shelby, Fort Jackson, Fayetteville and the many times they all came to see us.

The Charlotte uncle had four children and since there were four of us, we had our own little army of kids.

We remembered when all eight of us tried swinging across a large embankment on one grapevine and when it snapped, how bad it hurt.

 On Sunday afternoons when the cousins were at our house we took long walks up and down the road.   Leaving our home we'd walk through the woods — a bit of history covered up with a four-lane road —over to McDade Road across to Birch Hutchins Road nearly to U.S. 221, which was a couple miles of walking and talking. 

At the reunion we talked about the time we traveled to the beach and spent one day there and how disappointed we were because it was a cloudy day.

We spent the entire day under the cloudy sky and received the worst sunburn of our lives. 

We remembered the longest ride home of our lives that beach trip.

 We couldn't stand for one person's finger to touch another. One minute we were all freezing and the next minute we were burning up.

We weren't nearly as happy coming home as we were to get there.

We talked about the chicken house below our back yard where we raised chickens. We laughed remembering the daddy and his brother were doing target practice. They missed their targets and shot right through the chicken house killing several young chicken. 

Needless to say we had fried chicken for Sunday lunch much earlier than predicted. 

We laughed and we reminisced. 

After spending about four or five hours together last Saturday night, we bid our cousins, aunt and uncle good-bye with a promise to each other that we'd get back together next year. 

Having a reunion, whether big or small, is a lot of work. I must have made 100 trips from my house to the yard to the garage and shed, back and forth carrying the reunion paraphernalia. 

When it was all over, I was about as tired as I've been in a long time. It was a good kind of tired, one I'm looking forward too again, soon.

Family matters.