In keeping with my recent entry about my Aunt Bert, I thought I'd stick with the family thing and write about this topic:
I had to laugh when I read that journal prompt, and I thought, "Oh boy, DO I?!" This was a topic just waiting for me to find it.
First of all, I have dozens of first cousins, and hundreds of cousins who are once-, twice-, and three-times (no, not a lady) removed. I've had a lot of great times over the years with all of them, including my Florida and Georgia cousins, but the ones I've always been closest to were Cousin Shane and Cousin Greg. (Cousin Doug, too, but he is several years older than me, and more of a big brother than a peer.) Shane and Greg and I were very close in age, and our parents (our Moms are sisters) were all very close and spent a lot of time together. My Mom used to babysit Shane and Greg, so we pretty much grew up together. Shane's Mom and stepdad were the first people I knew who had an Atari, and Shane and I spend quite a bit of time whiling away the hours with Pong, thus the Atari reference! What seemed so new and exciting at the time now seems funny, although I remember Shane and I slowing Pong way down, so the "ball" was practically crawling across the screen, and just laughing uproariously. Sometimes the strangest and silliest things would have us giggling for hours. Come to think of it, we're still like that.
Greg and I had a shaving cream fight. I think I lost.
On most weekends, we'd either be out at the campground with our families, visiting their homes, or being visited at ours. While our parents talked inside or out on the patio, us kids would be outside playing. If we were at my parents' house, we'd be running around the big yard, exploring the field next to our house or the creek across the road (we built a dam once, and it created an amazing--and rather scary--pool of water), or in the winter, hanging out in the basement. If we were at Shane's, and they lived in several houses over the years, we'd usually hang out in his room and listen to records (that's right...vinyl records), or make "forts" in the pine trees in the vacant lot next to their house on the same road I live on now. If we were at Greg's house, we'd play on the rope swing, or play shuffleboard in their basement. In the summer, we spent the entire day outside, and we'd ride our bikes for miles and miles. The rural back roads were safe, quiet, and we were free to roam unsupervised. It was a very different world. Did we get into trouble? Very rarely. We had our moments--we were kids, after all--but for the most part, we were good kids, just doing our thing and having fun.
In our bicycling travels, a hint of a pathway in the woods was an invitation to explore. We'd pull off the road and go hiking. If we were lucky, we'd find a little creek to splash around in. We found an abandoned railroad bed, and walked along that, seeing what discarded treasures we could find. (Years later, Ken and I bought this place, and we own, at least so far as anyone can "own" land, half of one of the railroad beds that us cousins explored as kids. It gave me a start to realize that we were purchasing part of something that I roamed 30-35 years ago.) We read comic books, we read regular books, we ran races outside, and we hopped on couches and beds. (Shane and I cracked the frame of the couch we had in our basement by jumping on it, so there is a legitimate reason to tell kids not to jump on furniture.) We watched scary movies on the Creature Feature, and years later, Shane and I watched "Saturday Night Live" and laughed about how our folks were so disgusted when Mick Jagger licked Keith Richard's face...although in retrospect, I think Keith was probably pretty disgusted, too. We watched when the B-52's performed on SNL, and we were hooked; we went to a few of their concerts together when we got older.
Shane's high school graduation party. Check out Greg's cool '80's look!
I'm happy I grew up with my guy cousins, because it made me realize that I was better off competing on their level, and there was no need to be overly "girly." I was always a tomboy, and they never dismissed me because I was a girl--we were equals, and I realize now that that may be part of what shaped my attitudes as an adult. I really do not recall a time when I was ever told, as a child, that I could not do something because I was a girl. As we got older, Greg started running track and ended up doing several marathons, then joined the Marines, and I was happy to concede the superior athletic ability to him. Ha!
Me and Shane, circa 2000
I don't have a lot of specific, discrete memories of my childhood or my times with my family and my cousins. (I'm sure Shane has lots of memories that I've forgotten.) It's more of a diffuse, pleasant memory of a very happy upbringing and an almost idyllic childhood, when I was carefree and felt a sense of optimism and hopefulness about what life would bring. Becoming an adult brought its share of heartaches and struggles, but I've never lost that sense of optimism and happiness. My childhood exploits with Cousins Shane and Greg are part of that, and remembering our curiosity and playfulness (I'm sure we weren't the only kids to pin towels around our necks and pretend to be Batman) makes me never want to lose that sense of adventure and discovery, or the childhood hope that all will be right with the world.
One final picture, and it's my favorite, and not only because of the fabulous '70's decor, or because it's a Polaroid. I think we were all in high school at the time of this picture (we all went to the same one). Greg has his long curls, Shane has long hair and lots of it, and I've got pigtails. Best of all, we're all smiling, and we appear to be as happy as can be. This picture never fails to make me smile.