Family Favorites

We had a lovely visit on Monday from my cousin, Wes. He lives in Columbus, OH, and is a retired librarian at Ohio State. He was a librarian at Macalester for several years, and then moved to to the big time in Ohio. ( I always think of him when Wesew comments on the blog).

Wes was on a return trip from Seattle and stopped by before heading to Minnesota to see other family there. We had a great time reminiscing and telling stories. We share similar political and social beliefs. I hadn’t seen him for six years. Growing up as an only child, my cousins were like my brothers. I spent a lot of time with them. I had very few female cousins and I wasn’t very close to them. I think perhaps that is why I have always been more comfortable around men than I am around women.

We have had very few visits from any family except my parents since we moved here 33 years ago. This visit was a real treat. I wish that more of our immediate and extended family had the sense that a visit to other family is more important than the appeal of the area in which they live. I suppose that our family could just consider us real pills, and that is why they don’t visit, but I they seem to like it when we visit them, so I don’t think we are that putting off.

What family visits have you dreaded or enjoyed over the years? Who are your favorite cousins? Who are your favorite relatives? 

33 thoughts on “Family Favorites”

  1. I come close to having no relatives at all.

    My mom had one brother. Relations between them were toxic. Since he lived in California, he visited us three times in five decades. That was far more of Uncle Herb than we ever wanted to see.

    My dad had a brother, Uncle Don, who had one wife and one child. Uncle Don, who passed away, was tall, dark and handsome. He smoked a pipe and had a curious way of laughing. For a time I emulated Uncle Don, smoking a pipe and laughing as he did. It was a total botch. I went back to laughing normally and threw away my pipes. I’m still five inches shorter than he was, and now despair of gaining on him.

    Uncle Don’s wife and daughter are good people and valued relatives, as they are the only relatives I have beyond my sister. They live in Ohio. My cousin reads Trail Baboon sometimes. The last time I saw her, JFK was president.

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  2. I used to dread the Thanksgiving gatherings with Husbands family, until we sat down to eat – form that point on it was usually great fun… same with some super soaker parties in our back yard. The people I was anxious about have removed themselves from that family, so now the rare get-togethers are good. Covid caused us to miss a niece’s graduation last spring…

    I have something like 24 cousins. I’m in touch with a few favorite cousins via email, and several others on Facebook, which has been helpful after my mom’s death last June. We’ve stopped to visit a couple when on road trips.

    My favorite relative would be my sister, who I’ll get to see when she comes back in June for a memorial we’re planning for Mom. I hope her son, if he comes, is in a good mood.

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  3. My siblings and I text every morning. It started about two years ago, with mom texting us all just so we knew she was up and OK. But that lead to us siblings texting among ourselves too. It’s been kinda nice. We all get together multiple times in a year. One sister out in PA, but the rest around here so it’s easy to celebrate a birthday or holiday.
    I spent a lot of time with cousins growing up; a few more often than others. Most of those relationships have faded over time…but we’re all still up for a summer get together or something. One side decided Christmas time was always too busy so they do “Christmas in July”.
    But the other side of the family, maybe there’s a family picnic in the summer… maybe there’s not. We’re pretty different politically and socially.
    Clearly I don’t drink enough beer. Ha!

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    1. It’s not clear to me, Ben, who “the other side of the family” is. Since you lead off talking about texting with your siblings, initially to be sure your mom is OK, am I safe in assuming that you have better relations with relatives on your mom’s side of the family tree?

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      1. PJ, you are the most discerning of readers! You keep us all on our toes! 🙂
        I knew that was kinda vague as I wrote it; wasn’t sure who would notice. That’s a good assumption and I don’t know how you figured that out. But yeah, moms side always has gotten together more than Dad’s side for whatever reason. Maybe they like to gossip more so that’s why they got together more?
        Or maybe it’s Dad’s side was all boys so it was just a ‘guy thing’ to NOT get together very often.

        It seems in every family there’s that one troublemaker.
        That’s all I’m going to say about that because we never know who might read these blogs!

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  4. I guess I am very lucky. My dad had one brother with whom he was very close, and our families lived within three blocks of each other for about ten years. They moved only 6 miles away and we cousins (5 girls) went to the same schools. My younger cousin still lives there and we don’t see each other often but do keep in touch. My older cousin lives here in the Cities and she and my younger sister do lots of activities (Lynx basketball, lunches, walks) together. Our parents have all passed so it’s nice to still maintain the family ties. My mom had 5 sisters and 2 brothers – between them there were 18 cousins. Three cousins lived on the West coast and 4 lived on the East coast. The rest of us lived here in MN within easy travel distances. It was pretty easy to see each other and we did so frequently. Our favorite gathering was Thanksgiving. One year there were 30 of us at my parent’s house. About 25 years ago we had a family reunion here in the Cities with 60+ relatives in attendance. In the years since, all the aunts and uncles have passed and the cousins have scattered. We don’t see each other very often but do keep in touch. Despite some deep political divisions, we still get along – of course, we don’t talk politics. It’s hard to pick out a favorite but if I had to it would be Rodger. I only have sisters and he is the closest to a brother that I have. And, despite the usual sibling squabbles growing up, both my sisters and I are very close.

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  5. Our family was so small we could have held reunions in an ordinary size dining room. I got to know some farm families that were so extensive they could barely fit all the relatives on a large lawn filled with picnic tables. Many farm families I’ve known were totally committed to maintaining strong relationships with family members, and the default activity on Sunday would be what they called “visitin’.”

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    1. My mom’s family did grow up on a a farm. My grandparents died in the early 60s so it was mom’s oldest sister (20 years older than mom) who kept family traditions going. She married late (in her 40s) and never had children so her nieces and nephews were her “kids”. And it was many Sundays that my family would visit cousins in Roseville or Minneapolis or they would visit us.

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        1. BIR – I guess I would be considered the very important Aunt to my sisters families – for both my nephew & nieces and my great nephews and great niece.

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  6. My favorite great uncle and great aunt lived in Pitt, MN, near Baudette in a very old, ramshackle farm house. They always loved for us to visit and to stay in their home, but my mother insisted that we always secure a hotel room first, since they had mice sometimes, and my mom was deathly afraid of mice.

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    1. We always got together with my dad’s cousins when we were in Pitt.

      My mom attended cousins reunions every year in the summer with a rather large bunch of cousins. They were always a day gathering with a meal. This continued until she was in her 90’s. Her family is quite long lived, and there were always lots of very old people getting together.

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  7. Most of our family gatherings entail our two daughters and their husbands and kids plus Robin’s Mom (who is 99) and her two sisters and their husbands, her brother and her sisters’ kids and their kids. That can add up to quite a crowd in our little house. Nevertheless we are most centrally located and by default the gathering place. Last time we all got together was March of 2020, just before everything shut down.

    Robin’s cousins are primarily on her mother’s side. Her mother’s brother had 5 kids—four girls and a boy—and when Robin was young they spent a lot of time together. Robin grew up in Japan as a missionary kid and when the family came back to the US on furlough they would live with her mother’s parents in a big house in Berkeley California. that was also where her cousins lived. Now the cousins are scattered all over, from the East Coast to California to Alaska but once a month they have a Zoom get-together.

    My Father’s brother never had kids. My Mother’s only brother had six and they are the only cousins I have. We don’t see them often and when we do it’s usually on their turf. They are scattered in Wisconsin from Wisconsin Dells to Madison to Milwaukee and one lives in Australia. Growing up they lived in Milwaukee and we sometimes took the train—The Milwaukee Road—to visit them. All in all, they are a jolly group and it’s fun to visit them. But here’s a curious thing- of the six of them all of them have been divorced at least once except for one who never married. Among Robin’s cousins four of the five have divorced as well. Common as divorce is, that still seems statistically inordinate. It makes me wonder if there’s something in a family dynamic that can predispose one to divorce. What do you think?

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  8. I’ve never seen a breakdown of divorce statistics that compared the divorce rates of country people and city people. So I don’t know what the numbers might be. My life experience tells me that city folks get divorced at a much higher rate than country folks.

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  9. I also come from a small(ish) family – each of my parents only had one sibling. Because of the ages/age differences, I have been closer to the cousins on my mom’s side than those on my dads (the cousins on mom’s side are within three years of my age – cousins on dad’s side have kids who are almost closer to me in age than they are). Family gatherings were mostly with my mom’s family growing up – though at least once a year we would do something with my dad’s family. I still see my mom’s sister at least once a year and am in good contact with her kids (all scattered, but have visited when I could – it’s a nice excuse to visit San Francisco… and now I can add Idaho to the list…). When we were growing up, the cousins on that side was who we would go visit over MEA break, winter break, at least once over the summer, they would come here for Easter… we saw them a lot. My cousin Tom and I, especially, have stayed in good contact, perhaps a result of regular correspondence between Minneapolis and Brainerd when we were both in our late elementary/junior high school years.

    Husband’s family… well, there was little to start. Cousins, aunts, uncles were all in other states and not close. Those he was in some contact with have died, as have both his parents. He did not get on at all with his brother who has no children or spouse (and who I have not seen in years). Growing up so close to my aunt, uncle, and cousins, that felt odd to me – but every family is different.

    Now if I had to pick a favorite family member (not my daughter), that would be my brother. He is here in town and we have always been the sort of close that doesn’t require a lot of talking, but is just steady and “there.” He has been my rock over the last several months and I am very glad he lives nearby.

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  10. Family reunions out here are huge affairs, and often involve hundreds of people because of the large, Catholic families here, and the custom of including everyone who descended from the first person to immigrate here. If your great grandparents had 12 children, and each of their children had 8-10 children, and so on and so forth, and the family reunion includes everyone who descended from the your great grandparents, you can imagine how many people would attend.

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  11. Ah, family! Most of my life I have thought of “family” in broad terms. Dad being an adopted child, and my core family living an ocean apart from Mom’s relatives, I was not related by blood to most of the people I considered family. It would probably be more accurate to refer to them as my tribe: a loosely connected, yet cohesive group of people who have been important in my life. 

    When you live as far away from family as I have for the vast majority of my life, you grow apart. You don’t really know each other anymore. They’ve changed, and so have I, and sometimes the person that we each remember is nowhere to be found. Yet, there are bonds that remain strong, and memories that tie us together.

    I no longer have any contact with anyone from my mother’s family. When Aunt Mary, who was married to Mom’s favorite brother, John, died last year from Covid, I deliberately dropped the tenuous connection I had with her oldest son. After years of looking for common ground with him and his two siblings, I gave up. They are simply not people I’d care to spend any time with if I were ever to go to Ireland again.

    My Danish tribe I’m in contact with via FB and emails. Not very regularly, except for my sister, but enough to maintain our connection. I have visited with them every time I have been “home.”

    My two favorite uncles were Leo and Børge, both now dead; especially Børge was more like a brother to me. His daughter, Carina, spent a year living with us while attending her senior year of high school in Inver Grove Heights. She now has a couple of almost grown daughters. We’re in regular contact. I’m sure she considers me more of an elderly aunt than a cousin. Børge was never a traveler. His one and only trip overseas was to attend Carina’s graduation, and see where I lived. He’s the only uncle who has ever visited here.

    I’m also in contact with a couple of Leo’s spawn via email and FB. Again, because of the age difference, and the fact that I essentially left Denmark when I was eighteen, we know each other mostly through my sporadic visits over the years. Gitte, Leo’s oldest daughter recently reached out to me, to ask me to share some of my memories of her dad. He died recently after years in ever deepening dementia. Gitte still lives in Stubbekøbing, as do a couple of her siblings, but although I have met them, I don’t really know them. They are my last tenuous connection to where I grew up. So

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      1. We actually did that twice. The first one was my sister’s youngest child, Susie. Two years later, Carina came and spent her senior year with us attending the same school as Susie had gone to. They both celebrated their 18th birthdays with us, and did a little traveling with me.

        Susie was shy and less mature than Carina. She wasn’t interested in joining in any of her school’s extracurricular activities, and spent an inordinate amount of time hanging out with another Danish girl who was also an exchange student. Susie wanted to color her hair black, which I wouldn’t let her do unless she got permission from her mother. She didn’t, in my estimation, get as much out of the year what she could have. She was not interested in going to Prom, and didn’t, but she did attend her Graduation ceremony and the all night party that followed. She went to Florida with me when I had to attend a conference in Orlando. She loved going to the Epcot Center, was less interested in Cape Canaveral, but enjoyed our drive down the coast to Miami and staying in a couple of fancy hotels. All in all, it was a good experience for us both.

        Carina, on the other hand, was much more open and gregarious. She joined the school’s choir, and had a minor role in her senior class play, “Oklahoma.” She went on a class trip to Chicago (I went along on the trip as a chaperone) where they visited a couple of museums, and had a great time. She attended Prom and Graduation both, and made friends with several of her classmates that she is still in contact with. She was just so much more mature, and realized that this was an opportunity of a lifetime, and took full advantage of it.

        Interestingly, Carina, is now married to man who was also an exchange student in Kentucky the same year that she was here. They have two daughters, the oldest of which was an exchange student in Michigan. Unfortunately, her year was cut short by the pandemic, and all foreign exchange students were sent back home in March of last year.

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  12. All of my uncles have died. One favorite, Walter, was part of a quartermaster unit during WW2. Going to Europe, the ship he was on was torpedoed and sunk. He was rescued and then the rescue ship was torpedoed and sunk. He survived and served with 3rd Army (Patton), glad to be on land. Also he was paid for his lost personal articles which included a guitar.
    I have little contact with cousins.
    I have a favorite grand-nephew. When I had a knee infection, the open wound needed packing daily as part of the healing process. He did it.

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