My stories of friendship won’t be complete until I talk about a group of people who have given me some of my best childhood memories. This post, while being just a brief summary, is dedicated to my first cousins….all fifty-five of them! Sadly, ten of them have passed on to attend the ultimate family reunion but they each live on in my memories.
Everyone should get to visit relatives in West Virginia! Some of my earliest memories involve the trips we took each summer when my Dad loaded us up in our family vehicle for an almost nonstop race across the United States. When I think about those visits, my brain is like a patchwork quilt with colorful bits and pieces of memory stitched together by love, chaos, and craziness. I was young, and I don’t have whole memories, but the overall sensation is one of complete joy.
After four, or five, long days of sitting, I can remember crawling out of the car, hollering hello, and hugging anyone who didn’t move out of the way fast enough. Then I’d be off with some of my cousins, running as fast as we could across the field and up the hill by our grandparents’ house. That hill was a mountain in our small world and I can remember belting out songs from The Sound of Music as we twirled under that great blue sky. We ran down to the barn to see the pigs and to terrorize the barn kitties, which we rarely caught. Then we’d run away from the barn and the mean old chickens, back to the house where a feast had been prepared. After stuffing ourselves with pieces of the meanest old chicken (fried first, of course!), fresh green beans, and slabs of homemade bread, we went back into the yard to climb the apple tree, where we caught up on childish bits of gossip. We’d then play tag, till finally we’d collapse in a pile of tangled, sweaty limbs, giggling over farts, knock-knock jokes, and goofy boy cousins. If it rained, we played dress-up with old house dresses, overalls, and hats, or we jumped in mud puddles in the road. Later on, we would play in the woods, climbing huge rocks, picking berries, swinging on grape vines, splashing in a small stream, and visiting the Indian Cave! Oh, the good times we had hiking there!
Soon, we’d be back in the car, driving to the other grandma’s house, where we’d walk across a narrow bridge, over to her house that sat up on piles of blocks and rocks. It always fascinated me because you could see under it all the way to the other side! If you didn’t mind spiders and dirt, you could even crawl under it! At her house, we’d find more cousins and more food. We’d spend hours in the creek, and if we were lucky, we’d all pile into the back of someone’s pickup truck and go to the local swimming hole. I obviously didn’t have insomnia back then because I have no memories of the nights and I don’t remember where I slept.
Years later, my family tree has become the equivalent of a giant sequoia, bursting with spouses, kids, grandkids, great-grandchildren, etc. We are everywhere! It may be a few steps beyond normal, but I love meeting somebody, talking, and finally being able to say, “oh, yes! You’re my cousin’s daughter’s husband’s mother’s sister, right?”