Growing the next generation of cousins

Published 1:26 am Saturday, September 3, 2011

A few years ago, an aunt brought a picture of her son and my brother taken in the mid-1970s at Six Flags to our Labor Day weekend family reunion. The boys, inseparable at that age, where holding hands and looked as happy as two 8-year-olds could be.

We were looking at the picture because those boys grew up to be fathers of daughters similarly close in age, and virtually inseparable at family events.

“Somebody should do something with this,” the aunt said.

“Then somebody should give the picture to someone who will,” I countered.

She was thinking we should take a picture of the girls holding hands, and we did. But with a little digging, I also was able to find a picture of the same aunt holding hands with my father. Neither of them remembered the day the picture was made, but agreed that Grandmother probably forced them to hold hands.

So “somebody” framed copies of the three photographs of three generations. It is a valued memento of the time we all spend together.

My father is the oldest of his siblings and at 73, the only one who still works. Yet it is his job to make the housing arrangements in each of the five cabins and the lodge rooms we’ll inhabit this holiday weekend. I am the oldest of the next generation, and probably spend more hours at the office each week than any two of my siblings or cousins. It’s my job to plan meals.

At times, Daddy and I feel like we’re herding cats. Trying to get this stubborn group “in line” is among the most frustrating things we do each year. One aunt won’t be happy with the accommodations, no matter what. An uncle refuses to eat “anything that swims or flies.” My sister-in-law is allergic to onions. Somehow, we’ll plan meals around that and they’ll eat or they won’t.

They probably say that Daddy is too stubborn and I make things more difficult than they have to be. They are right: Witness my vehicle loaded with tons of food and serving pieces. Surely, sandwiches on paper products would suffice.

But we’ll watch football together and manage to tolerate support of rival teams. The ‘Bama contingency will cheer for Florida State and the Florida State cousins will cheer with us. We’ll all be nice to my brother who wears orange.

In the course of three days, we’ll visit, humor our aunt who likes for us grown “children” to play games, eat together, and tire of one another’s company and complaining.

But we’ll leave pleased at having watching another generation of friendships grow stronger, and we’ll start to talk about plans for next year.

Family. What’d we do without them?