The Cousin Adventure

Four of my cousins are in town…Marcia, Deb, Pam and Bob.  They made a 1000 mile road trip from Northern Indiana to come visit.  Pam is in her 50’s like me and the other three are over 60.  They left in the middle of the night Sunday night and took turns driving and sleeping.  It took them 15 hours to get to North Texas.

Originally, it was going to be a girl trip…my three girl cousins…but then their brother got wind of their plan and said he wanted to go too!  I asked what all of their spouses thought about their road trip, and they said that all were supportive of the four siblings having this fun adventure together.

Their mother and my mother were sisters and best friends…Edie and June.  They loved one another so we loved one another.  I didn’t have sisters so I especially looked up to my older, girl cousins.  Pam was younger than me but the same age as my brother, Jeff, so they were always close.

With my mom and aunt in 1984 at Pam’s wedding

My first birthday celebrated with my cousins!

Since our mothers loved being together, we spent a lot of time with one another when we were kids.  I was younger so it probably wasn’t as exciting for my older cousins to be with me as it was for me to be with them.  We grew up playing together at one another’s houses and often celebrated our birthdays together.   We trick-or-treated as a group every Halloween and we spent every Christmas Eve together at our grandmother’s house.

Cousins in the 1960’s!

We spent many nights at one another’s houses too.  Marcia and Deb taught me about hair and makeup and clothes.  Bobby taught me how to throw a football and a baseball.  We loved playing “Is the wolf out tonight” and “Kickball” in their big front yard.  Sometimes we would fight, usually about whether or not someone was out in a game, but those disputes never seemed to last very long.

We rode horses together across the fields and country roads near our homes.  We played jokes on one another.  One day, we were swimming at the local creek just down the road from their house and we all came out of the water covered with leeches.   I still remember standing on the edge of the creek screaming at the top of my lungs, “Someone get them off me!”

My brother, Jeff, on a horse at our Aunt’s house

Their mother was a second mother to me and mine to them.  She was the one I talked with when my own mother just didn’t understand.  She was the only one who called me “Jannie” and to this day, I can still remember the sound of her voice calling my name.  One of my fondest memories is the time my aunt and I spent together in the summer of 1984 planning the decorations for Pam’s wedding reception.

Celebrating Pam’s wedding in 1984

When our grandmother was still alive but was getting too old to do the work herself, we would organize a spring cleanup of her property every year.  All the cousins would meet at her farm and trim and rake and plant and paint and repair.   We would all bring a dish or two to share and have a big potluck meal when all the work was done.  There would usually be a horseshoe tournament at the end of the work day too!

My Mom and Grandma at a spring cleanup work day.

Marcia drove me to the hospital when I was in labor with my daughter.  I had been in Indiana visiting family when my water broke and I wanted to get back to Michigan and to my own doctor. My husband and my father were both out of town for work, and my mother kept my sons while Marcia drove me to the hospital.

My contractions were five minutes apart when we were making the hour-long drive to Kalamazoo.  Every time I would say, “Here comes another one,” Marcia would floor the Ford Explorer we were in.  She kept telling me, “Don’t worry, I won’t let you have this baby on the side of the road…I’ll pull in behind a gas station if the baby starts coming.”  Needless to say, we laughed during the whole drive back to Michigan and she got me to the hospital before Anna arrived!

Marcia holding my daughter, Anna, Easter of 1994

When her oldest son wanted to attend Western Michigan University and play baseball there, he lived with my family for a summer so he could play with the college summer team.  Later, he played in the minor leagues for the Cubs and was able to play professional baseball in Canada and Japan.

Marcia’s son, Brent, far left, celebrating Ryan’s 4th birthday in the summer of 1993 when he lived with us.

As adults, my cousins and I have celebrated the happy moments of life together and we have mourned together during the sad times. When my brother died 11 years ago, they were all there and just as devastated as I was.  When you love the same people, you hurt when they do.

With my brother, Jeff, at his wedding reception in 1990.

When our grandmother died, Bobby and I both spoke at the service for her.  When their mom died of cancer nine years ago, my cousins asked me to speak at her funeral.  It was such a difficult task for me but I did it because I loved my cousins so much and because I had loved their mom so much too.

Bobby and me this week at Babe’s in Sanger, Texas.

Two years ago when my oldest son had an October, Halloween-themed wedding reception, my cousins were there and in costume to help us celebrate the big day!  (Blog post:  And Zombies Came To The Wedding, October 2014.)

Last September, I had the privilege of doing a book signing in Northern Indiana and of course, my cousins were there to support me and to celebrate my new book.  This picture of the four of us girls is one I will treasure always.

Their Texas road trip adventure has been such a gift for all of us.  My cousins felt it was important to visit and to spend time with their aunt while they still could.  And my mother has been so happy to have this time with the four of them…as have I. How lucky we have all been to share our whole lives with one another!

My cousins and me with my mom this week.

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