My family is large. There are a lot of us, pretty much on every side of the family, but particularly on my mom's side. She has 6 siblings. Many of them are married with kids, and their kids have kids now, too. One of the best things about my family is how intentional the family has always been about getting together, and knowing one another.
My childhood is filled with memories of family-- spending Christmas together, or the 4th of July, and ordinary Saturday afternoons. I remember making nature soup with my cousins, and climbing the tree in our grandmother's yard for hours-on-end. We had cousin sleepovers, played hide-and-go-seek in the dark in our grandmother's yard, built forts in her backyard, and went exploring in the alley that was behind her house. I was 16 when our grandmother died (none of the cousins had the chance to know our gradfather, as he passed away before any of us were born), and I wondered if I would still see my family again like we always did at our grandmother's house.
Yes. I still see my family on a regular basis. Even at age 30. We still spend Christmas together, celebrate birthdays together, visit the ones that live in other states, and we even have a family facebook group. We stay connected. Sure, it gets harder to do, as our family keeps expanding. But we somehow make it work. While certainly everyone in the family works hard to stay connected to one another, I think a large part of our connectedness over the years has been because of our aunt D. When our grandmother passed away, I'd say she became the established "matriarch" figure of the family. She organizes cousin dinners, plans (and largely funds) our Christmas gatherings every year, helps to maintain our family contact information and makes sure we're all in the loop, attends high school, college, and graduate school graduations, birthday parties for her great nieces & nephews, sends everyone in the family a card on their birthday (that often includes a little "fun money"), and makes sure we all know what's going on in one another's lives. Simply put: She's an amazing woman. She loves her family dearly-- and she is well-loved by us.
All that to say: there are 4 of us from my generation of cousins running this half-marathon next Sunday. There's me, Jessica, Christin, and Barrett. And I am excited about that. Excited because I can honestly say that these folks are more than just cousins-- they are my friends. They are my friends, because our family, through the years, has made an effort to know one another and take an active interest in one another's lives.
* [I could write an equally heartfelt and honest tribute like this, for all of my families, not just the Collinses. I could write one about the Efurds/Hendersons, the Floyds, and my newest families, the Lawsons and Hickmans. And probably someday I will.]
So. I am grateful also to have journeyed with these folks the past few months-- being jealous of Barrett and the insanely long distances he is able to run, and the ridiculous speed with which he has run them (while being genuinely excited for him at the same time!), being truly concerned and worried for one another over injuries, and encouraging one another when we're discouraged, and celebrating when one of us has run a longer distance than we ever have before!
I look forward to celebrating with you at the finish line, you guys! (Of course, Barrett will have had time to finish, eat, take a shower, and change clothes, before the rest of us make it there. We'll only be a little bit jealous.)