My mom is one of five children, and she and her siblings have produced 20 children to date. All of my memories of gathering at my grandparent's house for holidays or summer visits are dominated by a teeming mass of bodies. TEEMING.
Cousins, crammed hip-to-hip on sofas, piled on top of each other on the floor, rolling out of doorways. The adults were so severely outnumbered by children that it was laughable. At bedtime, we'd cover the floor with sheets and call it done. Pillows and blankets were nice if you could get one. Don't count on it. But, with any luck, you'd have run around so much in the backyard that day, and eaten so much good food, and then snuck back into the kitchen later that night to sneak Cheez-Its and potato chips, and, if you were really lucky, a Klondike bar, that you were so full and happy and tired, you'd fall asleep regardless. And it wouldn't even matter if one cousin was snoring in your ear and another one squirming and kicking you in his sleep, because COUSINS! It's so fun to go see the cousins!
I remember crowding well over a dozen kids around my grandmother's table, sitting with my butt half-on-half-off the edge of the bench, aunts and uncles leaning on counters, and one of my cousins poking me with his knobby elbows and telling obnoxious knock-knock jokes SO LOUDLY RIGHT NEXT TO MY EAR, but I was so happy just to be with everybody, and ESPECIALLY so happy that I got to eat during the FIRST shift of dinner that I didn't even care.
There was a certain camaraderie to our cousinship that went deeper than the simple fact that our mothers looked alike and talked alike and came from the same mother themselves. Was it cramming around that kitchen table that did it? Sleeping in such close quarters? Working together to sneakily watch an off-limits move in Grampa's TV room?
Or, is it just the common bond of shared memories. That they also remember Grampa's pages of zeros, tacked inside the kitchen cupboard, where he had marked 0 cigarettes and 0 drinks every day for hundreds of days. That they also know Grandma's weird rule about only taking 2 cubes of ice and that it is a SIN to touch her quilting stuff. That a huge chunk of our childhood memories happened in the same neighborhood, same house, same yard.
My grandparents sold their home last year, to move into a retirement type community. That house belongs to someone else now. When I think that I will never run around in that backyard, or get yelled at for banging on my Grandma's piano, or get M&M's out their twisty-man jar, or cram around that kitchen table with my cousins again, it feels more than nostalgic; it feels just plain sad.
But even though my grandparent's house isn't ours to visit anymore, the memories, camaraderie, and relationships are still ours, and that's not too shabby either.
In the past decade we've been able to stage one awesome cousin's reunion where we got ALL OF US TOGETHER AT ONE TIME. It was a feat. (Guys, we should schedule another one soon. SO SOON!) However, right now, the cousins are marrying off and procreating at an ALARMING rate, which is great for two reasons.
Reason #1: Weddings are the perfect way to see everybody. Get engaged, plan our family reunion! I mean, your wedding!
Reason #2: BABIES! People keep having babies, which is awesome because it A)adds to the chaos which is such a integral part of our cousin memories, B) first-cousins-once-removed are so AWESOME!
Now, in case your family tree hasn't necessitated you learning these terms yet, allow me to share my expertise. When YOU have a kid and YOUR COUSIN has a kid, your kids are each others second cousins.
First-cousins-once-removed is what MY kids are to my cousins. Or, what my cousin's kids are to me.
Still confused? Probably just don't worry about it too much. Not a big deal unless they ask you on Jeopardy one day.
At MC's wedding I got to see several of my cousins which was awesome. And Henry and Maggie got some real bonding time with one of their second cousins. This is my cousin Olivia's daughter, and she is a gem and could probably have been left alone to care for my children and would have done an excellent job, were it not frowned upon to leave small children in the care of a second-grader.
Doesn't she look very competent? She is. Maggie was very happy hanging out in her lap.
One cute group shot:
Okay, now here's the real winner of the bunch:
LOOK AT MAGGIE'S FACE!!! HER BABY TONGUE!!! IS THAT NOT HILARIOUS OR WHAT?!?!?!?!?
Coming from a family of 6 kids myself, I have high hopes of recreating for my kids the same kind of glorious 'teeming mass of cousins' memories that I grew up with. And aside from having their own cousins to play with, hopefully we can toss in a few second cousins too. It looks like there will be enough of them. :)