Tag Archives: cousins

Three Weddings and a Funeral

Some of you will remember that fun movie with Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell, Four Weddings and a Funeral. What I meant to say is that the weddings were fun, but throughout the whole movie, I kept wondering–who was going to die?

The first family wedding we were invited to this year actually took place inside Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the Cardinals play baseball. The bride and groom are both (obviously) big Cardinal fans. Ed went to the wedding to represent our family, and he made sure to wear a Cubs tie! I was looking forward to seeing the photos he took on his phone, but the best one was a picture of dinner–a bacon-wrapped hot dog! Fortunately, I’m friends with the bride on Facebook and was able to see some better wedding photos, including the one of the Cardinals’ mascot, Fredbird, dancing with the bride!

The second family wedding was in downtown Chicago at the Drake Hotel, and all four of us were able to attend. Lily and Emmy were so excited to see their cousins and to be included in such a formal occasion! The girls loved the white roses on their plates and the mints in the bathroom. I loved the matchboxes (which sounds weird until you read this post) and the live band. I think this photo sums up the excitement so well:

family wedding

 

And then, at the beginning of October, we had a funeral.

My father-in-law had always been such a healthy, energetic man, and after Ed’s mom died, he really pitched in to help with Lily and Emmy. They adored him. When he was diagnosed with lung cancer last year, he started to slow down. The last couple months of his life were such a struggle–and I am blessed that I was able to help him just a little bit through his cancer treatments. It is never easy to see someone you love die, especially when you are also relieved that all the suffering that cancer brings is over. Grandpa Bill is now at peace with Jesus, and that brings us comfort.

We held a memorial service for Ed’s dad on the first Saturday in October, and then that Sunday, I got a phone call. My 57 year old cousin had suddenly had a massive heart attack and died. I was unable to travel to Arizona for his funeral, although I really wanted to be there.

Grief for my father-in-law and my cousin wore me down, and so the third wedding in the middle of October came as a relief. I was so looking forward to celebrating with the happy couple. And I was also looking forward to spending time with Ed! We headed downtown a little earlier for the reception than we needed to and wandered along the lakefront.

Ed and Ginny

As we were walking to the reception, we stumbled on the Caldwell Lily Pool near the Lincoln Park Zoo. I had never even heard of it before! It was a beautiful place to wander around, especially in the fall. We were soon on our way to the wedding reception, which was also a beautiful event.

Caldwell Lily Pool

So there you have it. Three weddings and a funeral.

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Solo Road Trip: Part Three

When I was growing up, we always celebrated Thanksgiving with my Dad’s family. Now that my cousins and I are older, we’ve taken over hosting Thanksgiving, but with a twist. It’s been hard to get everyone together on Thanksgiving itself, so we have a “Pre-Thanksgiving” celebration. This year my cousin and her husband graciously hosted our family in Midland, Michigan, this past October.

(Read Part One and Part Two)

Midland MI

After our breakfast and during our exploration of Midland, my aunt and I discovered the trail that led to my cousin’s house. It meandered along the river for part of the way, and even though it was overcast, it was a beautiful day. My aunt has always been a walker, but now that she’s 80 years old, she moves a bit slower than she used to. I kept her company and we chatted about books and teaching preschool, while Lily and Emmy went ahead with my dad. When Dad found out that we had about a mile to go, he thought it would be too far, but then he stumbled upon the cemetery that is right next to my cousin’s neighborhood. He and the girls rambled about quite happily, looking at the tombstones.

Fall trees

Towards the end of our walk, it started to sprinkle on us, so we were quite happy to reach our destination. While I started off with another cup of coffee, some time that afternoon my cousin’s husband put a Long Island iced tea in my hand! I wasn’t going to argue with him.

The house itself is beautiful. It’s a big house, with plenty of places to store things. In fact, the house may have too much storage space. My cousin, who is very organized, had bought the perfect paper plates for our Thanksgiving meal. She put them in a very safe place. So safe that she couldn’t find them! I helped her look for a little while, but the iced tea made me quite unambitious. She even sent her daughter’s boyfriend out to buy more plates, when voila! She remembered they were in a salad bowl on top of a dining room cabinet!

The day flew by. I visited with various aunts and uncles and cousins. Lily and Emmy were just beside themselves with joy when their second cousins arrived and the real fun (according to them) could begin. We ate a marvelous Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. (We almost lost the pies, but I believe they were found in the master bedroom.) We sang, told stories, sat around the fire pit, and played cards.

One of my cousins, telling a family story
One of my cousins, telling a family story

The day had turned dark, and it had been raining on and off ever since we had arrived. When I told the girls it was time to go back the hotel, Emmy looked up at me, a bit worried. “Mommy, I don’t want to walk to the hotel in the dark,” she said, very seriously. I had already arranged for a ride back, and told her not to worry. I didn’t want to walk back to the hotel either!

Our trip to Midland was spontaneous…as spontaneous as I get these days. I had originally decided not to go, since Ed couldn’t go with us. While I wish that Ed had been there too, I was also glad that I had made the trip by myself, with Lily and Emmy. Seeing my family made the solo road trip worth every mile!

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A Taste of Independence

I think the first time I felt independent was when I finally got my driver’s license. It took me a while to go to the DMV to actually get it because I was so afraid I would fail. When I finally did take my road test, the guy with the clipboard in the passenger seat did not help. He wanted me to pretend that I was parking going downward on a hill when we were actually heading up a hill. When I moved the wheels the wrong way, at least he didn’t mark it against me!

The first summer I had my driver’s license, my aunt let me borrow her silver Cadillac. My sister, cousin and I bounced into the car. We were going to the movies. As we drove, our arms loosely draped out of the open windows, we turned the radio up and sang along at the top of our voices.

Highway to the Danger Zone.

We were going to see the best summer movie EVER.

I feel the need…the need for speed!

That’s right. We were going to see Top Gun.

While the silver Cadillac didn’t accelerate using g-forces, that sense of freedom on a warm summer night was exhilarating. Sometimes being the oldest child in the family is awesome!

Sometimes, though, being the oldest child is also scary. I was the first to go away to college. I loved being away from home…and hated it. Those first few months were really hard. It was before cell phones and email, so I had to call my family collect. Will you accept the charges?

I don’t remember why, but I guess I thought I had to be independent and I held off calling my parents for 9 weeks. I was busy after all, hanging out with my new friends 24 hours a day, taking classes, doing homework, and going to the student union. We did send real letters to each other (you can read some of them here). When I finally heard my mom and dad’s voice on the phone, however, I remember feeling so happy and yet missed them so much that I burst into tears!

Independence; sometimes exhilarating, sometimes heartbreaking.

When do you remember feeling independent?

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Growing Up Together {Spin Cycle}

I like to tell people that I grew up with my cousins, but that’s not necessarily true. The ministry had scattered the family on my dad’s side all over the country; from Alaska to Ohio. I never knew my dad’s parents, in person anyway. They died before I was born, but they live on in stories told frequently by my dad and his brothers and sisters. Despite death and distance, the sisters and brothers remained close. Our families met, when we could, twice a year, at Thanksgiving and at The Lake.

Our family took  a week-long vacation at a lake every the summer. The Lake changed from time to time; we started renting cottages at Lake Huron, then one summer rented at Duck Lake (yucky, only lasted one year), Lake Hemlock (a camp, which was cool because the cousins stayed in our own “chalets”), and now, a large house on Lake Michigan. I’m using the term “growing up together” loosely because we didn’t live around the block from each other, much less the same town. As cousins, we loosely grouped ourselves into age groups. We had an older group that all of us younger cousins loved hanging out with, but as you can imagine, the older cousins did their own things away from the younger cousins. Occasionally we would do things together, such as act out plays for our parents or walk to the gas station to buy candy. And cards. We loved to play cards. Our cousin Mark taught us the finer points of the game 500, such as going in the hole just to keep the other pair from getting the bid. (His brother plays the same way.) Mark drove us to the movies. (Spaceballs one summer.) He played the game of Risk with his brother and teased his little sister unmercifully.

Mark
Playing 500 (Mark is on the left.)

As we became adults, the age groups dissipated. Jobs and families scattered us apart, from California to the United Kingdom, but we still kept up with each other. Out of all the cousins, we probably prayed for Mark the most. He was a West Point graduate, and the Army sent him all over the world. We prayed for Mark to safely come back home, and he always did. But then Mark was attacked by an enemy that we didn’t expect. Cancer.  We all prayed even harder for Mark and his wife Kathy, and it looked like he was winning the war.

When the email came from my cousin that Mark had died, I didn’t quite believe it. I had to call my dad just to confirm the news. It was a quite a shock to us all.

The last time I saw Mark was at my mother’s funeral. He was in uniform; probably the only time I’d ever seen him in uniform. We usually saw Mark on vacation; out of uniform. My cousins and I were so lucky to grow up with Mark. He was well loved, and he will be missed. Especially when there’s a good card game going on.

Playing 500 (Mark is on the right)
Playing 500 (Mark is on the right)

 


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Vanilla Charleston Chew

Buying candy was such a treat when I was growing up. I remember one of my friends found a whole dollar bill lying on the ground, and a group of us were going to go the local grocery store and split it four ways to buy a candy bar. I think my mom put the kibosh on that plan, and I never did get my candy bar.

One of the rare times we got to eat candy was when we were on vacation. Every summer, we drove to the shores of Lake Huron for a vacation with my extended family. My parents let us little kids tag along with the older cousins. After we were tired of playing on the beach, we would walk down the road from our cabin to the pink store, otherwise known as the gas station. We would amble down the country road, leggy kids with straight 70′s style hair, short shorts, knee socks and tennis shoes. The younger cousins would stand around the candy aisle first and carefully select the most candy we could buy with our tightly gripped, slightly sweaty coins. Then we would head to the back of the store to watch the older cousins play pinball. We would buy Charleston Chews, Jolly Ranger sticks and candy cigarettes with red tips. We pretended to smoke on the walk home. “Look, Mom and Dad, we’re smoking!” Weren’t we clever? Our parents would laugh, and then we would go to someone’s cabin to play games. My favorite candy of all was the vanilla Charleston Chew, which I would stick in the freezer and then bang it on the table to crack it.

candy bar

Last week, I took my daughters to the Target dollar section. Right away, I spotted a pile of HUGE Charleston Chews! Lily decided to buy one with her dollar, and I told her if she did, she would have to share with ME! When we got home, Lily put her Charleston Chew in the freezer for a few hours. After dinner…

CRACK!

Yum!

What’s your favorite childhood candy?

Mama’s Losin’ It

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