My dad was the oldest of nine children. Those nine children gave my grandparents 38 grandchildren. That means I am one of 38 (count 'em, folks!) first cousins. (In fact, I am one of five cousins born during a four month period in a single year. I think someone 'lovingly' referred to as "the herd.")
There was always someone to play with at family reunions. We always had enough for teams. As we've gotten older, married, and had our own families it has been harder to keep track of each other.
Several years ago we started gathering at my grandparent's farm for a weekend of camping. Our children get to enjoy the farm and creek just as we did as children. The house and the old barn are gone, but Grandma's flowers grow without tending and the "coffee bean tree" still drops the goods for kids to play with. The kids catch crawdads and frogs. They swing on a rope swing and drop into a swimming hole. There is a campfire, hot dog roast, and community camper breakfasts. Little ones get tucked into tents by flashlight.
The best part of the weekend? Spending a couple of days with my extended family. At a typical family reunion, with a meal and a couple of hours- there just isn't much time to talk. During a weekend visit, we get reacquainted and create all kinds of new memories: we've had the year of the fire (the house burned), the year of the flood (the creek rose), and the year of the rat. Don't ask! (Actually, one cousin had a rat go home with her and it ate the wiring in their vehicle. Ugh!) One cousin led a hiking group on a wild goose chase to find the springs. Lewis and/or Clark, he wasn't.
On Sunday, the non campers arrive for a potluck dinner. You can tell who camped and who didn't. The ones who look good and smell good haven't spent their weekend in tents and campers. A favorite aunt brings a huge freezer of homemade ice cream. (You can see why she is a favorite aunt!) I'm not sure how many gallons her freezer makes, but it feeds the large crowd that gathers.
This happens to be one of my favorite weekends of the year. I love my cousins. They are crazy and fun. (Only a crazy cousin would decorate the grave of an aunt and uncle who are still alive!) I love getting to know the cousin's kids and spouses. I love when the aunts and uncles join us, tolerate our teasing, and tell us their stories of growing up on the farm. Mainly, I love remembering my childhood and my grandparents.
A sky full of stars is just an added perk!