This is a great time to appreciate what we once had and what we still have. We all know the holidays will be different this year, and because we can’t re-create the past without a time machine, …
This is a great time to appreciate what we once had and what we still have. We all know the holidays will be different this year, and because we can’t re-create the past without a time machine, I’ve resorted to unearthing the cherished memories of special holiday moments. I realize so many of mine centered around my cousins.
I arrived late to the game as a first cousin. I am the second youngest in that crop, which was abundant and much older. The seconds, also an abundant crop, were closer to my age. Adding the adults, Thanksgiving, in particular, was a boisterous blend of excitement and continuing arrivals from three generations of relatives. At our original home in the Cooley Hills—well insulated from the outside world and without luxuries like multiple bathrooms, a well-equipped kitchen and modern heating sources—the convergence of so much happy energy made those things seem irrelevant. Therefore, one of the things I remember most was the laughter.
Because I hadn’t earned my kitchen badges yet, I was free to spend my time having fun with both the firsts and the seconds. Playing records, learning to shoot targets with a bow and arrow, hiking in the woods and playing card games, the older group always included me. But I was still immature enough to also join the younger group who could be more imaginative—especially around the pool before it was prepared for winter. In one particular water fight, we fought to the finish to see who could make the other most drenched by throwing life-savers at just the right angle to splash the opponent. Soaked, shivering and laughing all the way, we ended in a draw. One pastime favorite, building soapbox cars from scraps, was fueled only by determination. No brakes, no pedals, only a rope to pull for steering—the little monsters mostly held together after some pretty rough rides down a long hill, while we screamed and laughed all the way. One year, an older cousin accidentally backed his car over mine and squashed it like the yellow and orange bug it closely resembled. He laughed. I didn’t. I forgave him, though, because he told the funniest stories. And, while the younger set was making its own fun, the adults were busy preparing the meal. From whichever group I fit into at the moment, as long as I was within range of the house, the thing I remember the most about the adults was hearing their constant bursts of laughter in the crowded kitchen.
When the Thanksgiving dinner was finally served, things tended to get pretty quiet. Looking back, I could easily guess that it wasn’t just because the food was so good. It was also the gratitude for the warmth and comfort of the company, all three generations together. The stories continued down through many years, and they’re kept alive whenever we can be together. Many of my cousins found a way to settle here. They all carry the old place in their hearts. So this year, I’m giving thanks for all my cousins who have always been good friends too. Sadly, some passed way before their time and they are sorely missed. But all of them filled the life of this only child with laughter and memories for which I will be forever thankful. Bless them all.
Jennifer Canfield is a resident of Damascus, PA.