Plenty of cousins are something to be thankful for
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because at least once a year we are reminded, not just as individuals, but as a nation, to be grateful for all the blessings we Americans still have but often take for granted.
In spite of all the ongoing problems and strife in the world and the U.S.A., surely we all have much to be thankful for – not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of the year.
I've always thought of myself as a thankful person, but dealing with the first life-threatening illness I've ever had and have been battling the last two years has given me a whole new appreciation of thankfulness for faith, life, friends and family. Every day I make it a point to thank God for all the family, friends and blessings in my life. Lately, one frequently recurring word on my thankful list is “cousins.”
Since I've lost both my parents and all my aunts and uncles, I've realized my cousins are my only hope and source for answers to questions I come up with about facts and memories of family history. When I was growing up in Fort Smith, some of Mom and Dad's best friends were their brothers and sisters, so most of the best friends my brothers and I had were our cousins.
Mom's mother, and her Kidd family brother and five sisters, all lived in or near Fort Smith, with their children – Lenford and Shirlene; Norma Jean, Ronnie, Morris and Denny; Eula Lee, Alta Bea, Sue and (Little) Rena; Buddy, Beverly and David; Margaret and Castle; Pam, Sondra, Joy and Jamie. So they were the cousins we knew best.
My dad had only his mom and one of his sisters and her husband and their three children – Ruthie Jane, Jan and Billy Joe – living here. His other two sisters and five brothers lived in California, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas with their families. So, it was an extra treat when we could get together with our Poynor family cousins – especially Jerry; Mike, E.A., Phillip and Stanley; Barney Joe and, less frequently – Gloria Faye and Margaret and David and Dan.
It has been ages since I last saw my Poynor family cousins, but in the last few years my Kidd cousins have managed to have three reunions. I had to miss the third one this summer, but a few weeks ago my cousins Pam and Sondra and their husbands took me to Spiro to visit my cousins Shirlene and Norma Jean. And what a joyful time we all had.
To a casual observer it would probably seem that the way we talk and laugh all together at the same time it would be impossible for us to even know what is being said – but we do! I guess it's just a family gift (or, our husbands or other observers might say, an irritating fault.)
To their credit, all husbands present that day wisely visited with each other outside Shirlene's house while the cousins gabbed non-stop in the living room. Ah, and the many, many memories we shared in just a couple of hours!
Norma Jean and Shirlene laughed while recalling how they used to argue over which one of them would get to ride me on their bicycle handlebars before I had a bike of my own. I brought up the late night frog hunts some of our dads would go on together, returning at dawn to my aunt Rena's house to dress out the frogs so my mom and aunts could fry them for breakfast, accompanied by homemade biscuits and gravy. All of the rest of us reminiscing with Shirlene also still marveled at the memory of her having the only fully functional toy stove (you could really bake in its oven) that any of us had ever seen in those days.
Pam, Sondra and I also recalled our family camping trips to Tenkiller Lake before there were any boat ramps or buildings there – and our epic camping /fishing trips to Blue Mountain Lake. One Blue Mountain Lake escapade still cracks us up. While my dad was driving several of us in a car pulling a trailer loaded with all our gear, he was approaching a curve when a trailer – without a vehicle pulling it – passed us.
“Hey!” Dad said, “that looks like our trailer.”
“That is our trailer!” Uncle James exclaimed, as we followed it around the curve, where it ran off the road and came to a stop. Dad pulled over and he and Uncle James were able to get the miraculously undamaged trailer reconnected to our car and we were off again without further mishap.
The subject also came up of me running away from school when I was in the second or third grade and all the family commotion that caused. Norma Jean's mom had to pick up my mom and brother at the school I ran away from – and they were about to launch a search mission for me when I suddenly arrived at our house after hitchhiking a ride home with a total stranger!
I still can't believe I did that, but I'll never forget how scared I was when I realized as soon as I had climbed into the car what a dangerous thing I had done – and the lies I told that driver to try to convince him he'd better take me straight to my house.
Thankfully, he did just that. But before driving away, he warned me in a rather ominous tone, “I wouldn't be doing any more hitchhiking if I were you, little girl!” I guess my guardian angel had to work a lot of overtime when I was growing up.
Another close call I had was when I and my cousins Ruthie and Jerry were visiting my grandmother Poynor's brother and his wife at their farm near Oklahoma City. Uncle Mont had just harvested his wheat and the bins were full of it when the three of us climbed up on one and decided it would be fun to pretend to swim in all that wheat.
Thankfully, Grandmother found and extracted us before we stupidly drowned in that dangerously shifting grain. And, even though the raging itch we got was, we thought, punishment enough, Grandmother still gave us a switching we always remembered. Sometimes even a guardian angel can use some help when it comes to corralling rambunctious cousins.
THIS ARTICLE APPEARS IN THE NOVEMBER 2014 ISSUE OF ENTERTAINMENT FORT SMITH MAGAZINE.