Cousins. They're a special hybrid that's part friend and part sibling, without the rivilary and button pushing. Memories of long ago summer vacations with my cousins fill me and make me feel nostalgic. We didn't see each other often, but when we did it was glorious.
In some summers past, like the one pictured above, family came to us. Other times, my parents packed up the old station wagon, complete with my father’s hibachi grill for rest-stop cookouts, and we set off on what seemed like endless road trips, sometimes driving twenty hours to visit family. Once we finally arrived, we cousins picked up right where we left off.
They taught me about clam bakes and how to style my hair and I taught them how to fish and do somersaults in the pool. In the evenings, we’d gather with the adults, our parents and aunties and uncles, and play penny black jack, listen to the family stories, and laugh until our eyes watered and our sides ached. Watching my parents interact with their siblings showed me a different side of my mom and dad, too. Those times together opened the door to a different, broader sense of family. All these years later, they still hold a special place in my heart, just as my cousins do, each one for a different reason. All important.
In my own parenthood, I haven’t done as good a job with these family get-togethers as my parents did. I know this and I can't help but feel pangs of regret. I'd like to take the easy way out and blame distance, with Hubs hailing from England and me from Canada. But my parents lived far from their families, too, and still they were consistently good about making their people their priority. Like most things in life, it all boils down to choice. Hubs and I usually opt for far flung vacations to unexplored lands, satisfying our insatiable wander lust instead of returning to the familiar of our respective families. Though I wouldn't trade the experiences and adventures that we’ve collected, I know my kids have missed something important. Family.
But this week, I’ll make good. Today, my children’s British cousins and aunts and uncles will come and spend part of their summer holiday with us. We will be together again for the first time in nearly four long years.
I hope my children come to know that cousins are an important layer of their lives. These sons and daughters of aunts and uncles have their own unique perspective wrapped in the arms of the same family, but in different relationship. Cousins are part of the past and part of the future all at once. And time with them matters.
We have no grand plans for this reunion. We’ll hang out. We’ll go out. We’ll play a game or two and we’ll, no doubt, laugh. A lot. Maybe there will even be some fishing and somersaults in the pool. With cousins, that is enough because, when it’s all said and done, our favorite memories are often less about the grandeur of an experience and more about the people with whom we shared the time.
In a couple of weeks, when we leave one another, my wish will be that we all have a new collection of favorite photos that reconnect us to this time together, much like the picture above does for me. And I hope my children and their cousins will have their own store of fond memories to look back on. These times are the glue that binds and reminds us we are family.