"A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost."
-Marion C. Garetty
I grew up in the midst of a large extended family--lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. And we all lived in the same small town community. Coffee and cinnamon rolls at Grandma Faye's every Sunday after church, where the adults played games of Skipbo or Cribbage or chatted at the old wooden table that buckled in the middle, and the children hung off moms or huddled in corners, giggling and whispering, or retreated outside to play on the tire swing that once hung in the tree framed perfectly in the living room window. Holidays were spent crammed into a teeny house, the kids camped out on the laundry room floor with our plates between our legs, grumbling about how unfair it was that we weren't granted a table for our meal. We spent many childhood years with our cousins, scheming, laughing, fighting, forging our first friendships. Now we're all grown and we have the pleasure of watching our children forge those first friendships with their cousins. Except in our case, the extended family is much smaller and second cousins--the children of our first cousins--step in to fill that role.
Ever since my cousin had her first baby last fall, a month after I had my third, we've been exchanging daily text conversations about all things baby. We cheer when one baby sleeps large chunks at night. We empathize when one doesn't. We send pictures of blow-out diapers, the kind that need no caption. We share milestones and woes and new baby food ideas. Basically, we are each other's support system during this whirlwind called Baby's First Year.
Since Jaci and her family live in another part of the state, our interactions are mostly limited to conversations with our phones. When the opportunity arose to meet up, we hitched our campers and set up camp at a state park. The little babies sat side by side on a blanket, stealing toys from chubby hands, crawling over the other like their own personal jungle gym and squealing back and forth in a secret language only babies know. It seems these cousins may form that same special friendship.
It rained that weekend. A lot. Like the kind of rain that drenches you in seconds. We spent a chunk of the day hiding in my camper, chatting and tending to tired, restless babies. Later, once the rain peetered off, we strapped the babes in strollers to stretch our legs, only to be caught in a downpour. The trees lining the street served as a canopy, just a hint of the rain falling down. Once we retreated from under their cover, the rain fell hard on us and the babies covered under makeshift umbrellas made from sweatshirts flung over strollers. We ate supper that night piled into my camper eating the meal my husband made--sans potatoes, a mistake he won't soon live down.
Earlier in the day, before the rain swept in, the boys went kayaking. They returned a muddy mess, smiles lighting their faces. And later that night, once all the kids were fast asleep--all but one stubborn baby nestled in her mommy's arms instead of her bed--the adults sat under a canopy with tiki torches close by, the fire sizzling in the distance. It's these memories, these experiences, that stay with you long after babies grow into young adults. I'm hoping to make many more of these memories, preferably without as much rain, though.