Going through files recently, I saw the photo on the right from a 2017 family reunion in Boone. That in turn prompted me to look for the photo on the left, which was taken 10 years earlier in Wintergreen, Va. Emma would not be happy that the pyramid is not the same, but otherwise everything else seems to fit...
Currently showing posts tagged Cousins
The six Cook-McFarland cousins have not all been together in more than four years, so it was great to have everyone (including Conner, Nick's significant other) in the same place this past weekend in Boone for Jill's family reunion. These pics show they were quick to pick up where they left off...
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
The Hodges-Love family reunion drew about 50 people to Oak Grove Baptist Church in Boone over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. It brought together family members from Jill's maternal grandparents, many of whom we haven't seen in years. Here are a few photos; the rest can be seen in my Facebook album here.
Meanwhile, as part of the event, I took a series of shots of old family photos to display in the room. Below is one; you can see the rest by going to this link in the VIsual Storytelling section of the website.
We're having a quiet Thanksgiving at home, quite the contrast to years past. Feeling nostalgic with Ben, Emma, and Kate here together for the first time in months, I started going through old photos of past Thanksgivings.
A few things I noticed during our visual time travel:
• Over the last 20 years, we've had Thanksgiving dinner in at least 7 different cities in four states.
• Only two years (2001 and 2014) are not represented in this album. We were just moving into our home in Lorton in November 2001 and in 2014 we had just the girls here for a low-key Thanksgiving.
• After 2003, we didn't have Thanksgiving at home until 2013. Since then, we've been at home for three of the last four years.
• The last Thanksgiving all six McFarland/Cook first cousins were together was in 2012. They've only all been together a handful of times since. The last time all of the Cook/Ghirardi cousins were together was at my dad's funeral in 2007.
Going back through these photos was fun experience. Some years were easier than others — no surprise given that December is the month of birthdays. At times we were celebrating new opportunities; at others we were mourning those we had lost.
But all it takes is one quick look, and you can see why I give thanks every day for the life we have together.
Five of the six first cousins, minus Ben (who is in Florida), celebrated together again at Wintergreen. It was wonderful to have Kate in from Florida and Nicholas along with the McFarlands coming up from North Carolina to one of our favorite family places.
As with any family occasion, there were many memorable moments. Here's one highlight from our Thanksgiving meal:
Kate: I thought what you drizzled over the turkey was called dressing.
Emma: That's called gravy.
Uncle Michael (looking at us): Still have a lot of work to do, don't ya?
Four adults and six teenagers — three 8th graders, one senior and a college freshman — descended yet again on the Wintergreen Resort for a short summer break and to mark Michael's 50th birthday.
With Nicholas back to North Carolina and Ben in New York, the girls traveled to Texas to see their grandmother, aunt, uncle, and five first cousins for almost a week. I went down to pick them up and we had a family trip to the Rainforest Cafe. The seven children were not deterred by the 90 minute wait for a table, despite the smothering humidity in Galveston.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with the McFarlands this year in Chapel Hill, where Jill's father is staying due to illness. Nicholas was able to come up on Wednesday night, so we celebrated with him, then the five first cousins continued the activities into the next day. A lot of fun...
The McFarland/Cook/Hodges clan reunited for the funeral of Jill's father, giving cousins a chance to reminisce and say goodbye.
Every time I see them all together, usually only two to three times a year, I wonder where the time has gone.
“Them,” in this case, are the six Cook/McFarland first cousins — two boys bookending four girls in the middle. Nicholas, who I brought with me into the McFarland family, is the oldest at 21, followed by Elisabeth, the daughter of Michael and Jennifer who is 14 months younger.
The remaining four — Kate, Margaret, Emma, and Ben — were born within a 11½-month period from December 1996 to December 1997, a fact that still boggles the mind and no doubt caused their grandparents a great deal of heartburn.
Both of Jill’s parents have passed away — Betty in May 2005 and Bob last January. My dad died in 2007, and Elisabeth and Margaret also have lost their maternal grandfather. The links to generations past rest with my mom and the McFarland girls’ grandmother, who lives near the family.
The kids are lucky that they have grown up relatively close to each other. My sister, Julie, and her five children live close to my mom in Texas, and proximity/time/resources have meant the cousins have seen each other only a handful of times growing up.
In many ways, the last part of that statement mirrors my childhood. I only had two first cousins and saw them only on the odd occasions. It’s only since my dad’s death that I’ve reconnected with one of them, Melissa, and that remains sporadic. In many ways, both because of choice and circumstance, I feel like I’ve missed out on something.
And that’s never more apparent than when I see our kids and their cousins together.
As the family’s de facto photographer through the years, I’ve tried to gather all of the cousins together for pictures. Group photos are a bear under the best of circumstances because — depending on the group’s size — you literally have to take 20 or 30 shots to get one or two in all eyes are open and everyone is looking at you in a pleasant manner.
Last weekend, we drove down to Elon to hear Nicholas perform with his a cappella group, Vital Signs. Usually, because of the other kids’ obligations and timing, I make the 580-mile round trip by myself or perhaps with one child in tow. But this time, we all made the commitment to see the oldest perform.
We haven’t seen the McFarlands since Christmas — no surprise given the horrid winter and the coordination it requires to get 10 people together under the best circumstances — and my four sibs had not seen each other since February. But on this night, we were all there to cheer Nick on.
After the show, we all went to eat dinner. Nicholas brought his girlfriend, Katherine, and Margaret’s boyfriend came along as well. The kids and adults caught up, visited, and slid back into the familiar familial rhythms. It was if no time had passed at all.
One of my great regrets is that I was never able to get a strong posed shot of the six first cousins while Jill’s mom, Betty, was alive. Lord knows Betty and I tried, but I ultimately did not get a good group picture of the six until the Thanksgiving following her death. (Fortunately, after my dad died, my mom recognized how tough it would be to get all nine of her grandkids together, and had a formal family portrait taken that hangs in her house today.)
Now with the kids in their teens and early 20s, the Cook/McFarland cousins understand that the opportunities for these photos are rare. So even though they occasionally grumble, or make an ill-timed run for the bathroom to primp, they largely comply with my requests.
After the dinner, we rushed outside to the underlit parking lot. I put on the flash, focused with my fingers crossed and fired several times. Fortunately, of the five shots I took, one came out perfectly.
I posted the most recent group shot and was struck by how lovely these kids — now teens and young adults — have turned out. Unable to sleep, I went back through photos of the kids through the years and watched them grow up again.
Today, Ben and Emma are high school sophomores, as is Margaret. Kate is a junior. Nicholas is a junior in college, and Elisabeth is a sophomore. Sooner rather than later, the kids will no longer be part of our day-to-day lives, even though they never will be far from us.
That’s something every parent must confront, and with so much of our identities wrapped up in being parents/professional schleppers of our all-too-special foursome, it can be scary to think of what the transition may bring. But in many respects, I’m looking forward to it, both for us and for them.
In reality, it’s already occurring. Kate has driven for more than a year; Emma got her license in March and hasn’t looked back. We are now a three-car family with four drivers and another on the way, something that I haven’t had to deal with since I was a teenager myself.
The freedom afforded you when your children drive is amazing, and an odd way to prepare you for the next chapter. It’s much like first-time parents experience in the latter stages of pregnancy’s third trimester, when no one can sleep and everyone is overjoyed, scared, and persistently nervous at the same time.
Jill and I are fortunate, and I know it. Our kids are largely studious, respectful, and want to be the best they can at what they do. They spend too much time staring into the depths of their iPhones and questioning most (or at least many) decisions we make. But they truly are good kids, and I’ll miss having them around when that time comes.
And it will be all too soon.
Top Photo: Six first cousins in front of Jill's family home in Boone, N.C. — Thanksgiving Day, 2005. Bottom: The same six on the front porch in February 2013.