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This week we have celebrated yet another Thanksgiving Day – something we should be very thankful for! Growing up we always spent Thanksgiving with my aunts, uncles and cousins in Jackson, Mississippi, with probably 25 plus or minus in attendance. Those are such great memories for me.
All of my mother’s seven brothers are now gone, and only one of my aunts is still alive so we have not had any of these family events for quite a while. As an only child, I looked forward to times with my cousins because they were like brothers and sisters. We also had Christmas at our grandparent’s house every year where there would be 35-plus of us, and each child had a designated spot for Santa to leave their gifts!
I’m not sure if I’ve shared this story before so I may be repeating myself – skip over it if you’ve heard it a million times! When I was a child I was lucky enough to be able to spend my summers traveling between my grandparents’ home in Calhoun City, Mississippi, and my aunts/uncles in Jackson and Webb, Mississippi, to another aunt and uncle on Grand Isle, Louisiana.
I would enjoy time in Calhoun City going to week-long Vacation Bible schools, taking swimming lessons at the town pool and playing with all my cousins who lived there. My other cousins would come for weekends occasionally and, when their families left, I would get to go home with them for a week or so. Then I would move to another cousin’s house and then to another, and another. This lasted all summer, and I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world!
Not until I grew up did I realize that the reason I “got” to do this was they were all acting as my babysitters because my mother worked at a time when most mothers didn’t. I now think these experiences helped make me a fairly independent person who is not afraid to travel alone or to be in many different situations. Even though I was very shy when I was young, I was always able to make friends that I looked forward to seeing every year. This lasted until I was about 13 or 14 when I was allowed to stay home alone or go to friends’ houses in Mobile on some days.
We still had our Thanksgiving get-togethers until I was up in my mid-20s and had a child of my own. We would also have a family reunion of some kind every few years so I was able to stay in touch with my younger cousins as they grew up. But that also ended as we all went our separate ways in life.
Now, for the most part, we have only seen each other at the funerals of our parents. Thankfully all of my cousins are still alive, even though some do have health issues. I dread the thought of attending any one of their funerals.
Unfortunately times changed; we all spread out across the country and raised children who, for the most part, never got an opportunity to develop relationships with their cousins. And now there is another generation of cousins who grew up not knowing their cousins, and THEY are now beginning to have the next generation. It is sad because they don’t know what they are missing out on.
I think all of these memories are part of the reason I have always felt at home here in Coosa County. Most people I have met were born here and have generations before them who lived here. Many of you moved away for a time, but then came back. Others of you have never left, but stayed and raised your families here.
It took me a long time to realize that almost everyone is related to everyone else in some form, and I now understand that was how it was for me growing up in Calhoun City where most everyone was a direct relative of my family or a relative of a relative by marriage! What a great way to grow up!
Thankfully, I have reconnected with one of my cousins who is several years younger than I am. When Larry died she invited me to join her family at a condo in Fort Morgan that summer, and I have done so every year since. She and her two sisters all live in the Dallas area, and I’m planning to visit over Christmas.
We’ve talked about trying to have a cousin’s reunion in Calhoun City so I can show them around, take them to the old homestead and to the cemetery where probably six generations of our family are buried. I hope we are able to do that soon.
I hope one of the things you were thankful for yesterday was your family. Even when you disagree, you are still family. Besides family, I am so thankful for my wonderful friends who are like family to me. And I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my opinions with you each week. Whether we agree or not, I hope I can at least make you wonder sometimes.
And, for those of you who might have laughed when I said I was shy when I was young, I was also told recently by a dental hygienist that I have a small mouth! Yep – hard to believe, isn’t it?!