My aunt... must have been clinically insane. Loony, been around the bend one too many times, taken a space walk without her helmet, a few cards short of a full deck, not quite the top billing, a few too many monkeys in the banana plantation, just slightly mad.
And she does agree with this notion by the way.
For a span of years that, if I recall correctly, approach, if not pass, the decade mark, my aunt volunteered to take the cousins that lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, plus two stray Nevadans, for a week or two of fun. At the height, she had 7 kids ranging from 12'ish down to the youngest who was 2, and that doesn't count the various friends who attached themselves to this.
Housing them all at her house, a feat that meant double or triple bunking people, it was the highlight of my summer for as long as I can remember. Oh we hand camping, we had various visits down to the Bay Area to see our relatives, but Cousins' Week ah, Cousins' Week!
San Francisco Exploratorium, the California Academy of Sciences, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Shadow Cliffs Water Slides, and the crème de la crème, Great America, the first real amusement park I went to. And all of those BIG trips were punctuated with hanging around my aunt's house and soaking up sun and fun in their pool, hot tub, and various adventures my older cousin would come up with, including trips to a local park, Baskin Robbins for a clown cone, and of course, Winchell's Donuts with my uncle.
Looking back with older eyes, I can see the reasoning behind such an undertaking. By gathering all of the cousins together like this, she made sure that we grew up together. Years and fate have driven us across the globe; myself to Japan, my sister to the Pacific Northwest, one cousin to the Army and various others now involved with life, their families and children and so on, and yet... When on those rare occasions we DO get together, we are not strangers trying to bridge our lives together on the say so of just blood relationships, we are old friends and family who remember each other from the get-go.
Furthermore, such a gathering gave various parents time off. While my aunt was nutty enough to take all of us, her brother and two sisters-in-law had a break. For my mother, dealing with single motherhood, this was the longest one she would experience in the year, and probably the reason why she didn't drown my sister and I in the bathtub prior to us growing up. A week off gave her time enough to remember that she loved her children and actually start missing them.
But at the time, I didn't really get that. For myself, Cousins' Week was just fun. I loved my cousins and I loved seeing my grandmother (Who tagged along) and my aunts, uncles, and everyone else down in the Bay Area and I appreciated, a bit, my mother more when she would meet us at Jack-in-the-Box in Auburn for the pick up. It was during Cousins' Week that I learned the art of chicken catching, how to blast lemons and snails over the fence with an air compressor, the right way of sneaking up on a fort to scare the inhabitants, how to make a pepperoni, salami, baloney, and American cheese sandwich (And how to eat it), and why when a video store has an 18 curtain up, one should NOT wander in there!
Of course, that too provided a wee bit of education.
I wish that my sons could meet their California cousins. My cousins have produced children of their own and already there are rumblings of Cousins' Week: The Next Generation (Though my aunt has long since retired and has claimed the mantel of Grandma who gets to tag along but doesn't have to actually take care of us) from them.
Thankfully however, while their California Cousins have been sparse, they do have at least one cousin in Japan (More might be on the way soon) and this summer kicked off Cousins' Week- Japan. Ranging in age from 4 to 1 and 8 months, the three of them made a week long visit at Jiji and Baba's (Grandpa and Grandma's) house for a week of beach, park, and just hanging around the house and chasing each other while laughing like loons. Oh, and fireworks, which was also a Cousins' Week tradition. We had ice cream, admittedly not a clown cone, but ice cream just the same and I slipped into my uncle's role of minivan driver. Beloved's mother was more than happy to bring up the Grandma who gets to tag along but leaves most of the heavy lifting to the parents role as well.
The ONLY question was a matter of who was nutty enough to take over the role of my aunt, the head honcho of this operation. Beloved, who knows about Cousins' Week swears up and down that she will NOT be a party of any such endeavor. After hearing stories from my aunt, she, rightly, regards such an undertaking as a road to more gray hairs and yet... Well... she DID plan a great deal of the activities this week for the kids, wrangled them all together, got all the stuff, badgered her husband into driving...
Last fall when I went back home for my grandfather's final illness, my aunt, in hearing about how things stand in Japan, joked that she gratefully passed the baton to Beloved. I think she DID, no matter how much Beloved disagrees. Now all we need is for Cousins' Week Japan and Cousins' Week: The Next Generation to crossover...