Sorry...I forgot to say how the party went!
After a two hour drive, we arrived around 2 pm, and after hugs and hellos all around, we set up the snacks, and the eating and the talking started. My little one disappeared with her same-age cousins -- there was a new hamster to meet! Photos came out -- old and new -- and were passed around. My uncles looked over the old photo albums and told us stories about the people and the places and the stories behind the pictures...unfortunately, none of us had a voice recorder to capture the stories!!!
We set up the tables for dinner...a casual dinner with the fixings for sandwiches and salads and lots of fruit and plates and plates of homemade cookies and brownies!! So much for watching what I eat!
The kids table was filled with noise and plates and cups...and then just as quickly empty. There were far more interesting things to do than sit and eat! But we sat at our table for almost two hours....cousins, my uncle, spouses who were now cousins by default and affection, and my older daughter who at 17 is ready to leave the kids' table. We shared our lives since we were last together in the summer. We shared news about family members not able to join us. We reminisced about my Aunt who had passed and all the fun times we had together over the years. Older cousins told us things that happened before the younger ones came into the family. And we told them stories about how we had seen them when we were little and they were in their teens and twenties (including confessing to some pranks we'd pulled when they weren't looking!)
Then it was time for the gift exchange. We chose from wrapped gifts as our turn came up...each person could select a new gift, or take one from someone who had already opened theirs. And when my uncle got his dark chocolate Hershey bars, every one threatened to take those when it was their turn, but no one really would! Trust me, we have learned not to come between my uncle and his dark chocolate!!
The gifts were silly and fun...giant hand made potholders, coasters needlepointed with pigs, a lint brush...my cousin Terry provides all the gifts (and makes most of them herself!) Thanks Terry!
After we cleaned up, people started to leave. My little one went to spend the night at her favorite cousin Madison's house. My older daughter and I stayed with my cousins Terry and Dave. We talked as we cleaned up the rest of the party's remains. Talked as we put away food. Then sat and talked...the four of us, until almost midnight, about family and life and relationships and marriage and love and politics and life in Florida and life in Pennsylania (they lived in PA for years, too.) We got to look through Dave's collection of pins and buttons (I collect them too, and my daughter is starting her own collection.)
And despite the age differences, (Terry and Dave have grandchildren, and daughters in their 30's) we were all equals.
It was warm. It was family.
The next morning went quickly. Talking some more, breakfast, and then on our way. But all the way home, we talked about the party and family and how wonderful it is to have this blessing in our lives. And how much we can't wait for the spring cousins' reunion!