Mom Chronicles: Hints from the road
Girls and Goofy Glasses: These Cousins Bring The Adventure to Summer 2009
- Category: Mom Chronicles: Hints from the road
- on Thu Oct 22, 2009
- by Brooke Stephens, Photos by Mark Stephens on Thu Oct 22, 2009 - (2) Comments
Chloe and her only cousin, Samantha, are infatuated with each other. Samantha is a sweet and spunky 7-year-old, daughter of Mark's brother Greg. We've taken these two girls camping and recreating their whole lives, so they've spent at least two dozen trips in the backseat together as travel buddies. Our conversations with Chloe about going on a camping trip usually go something like this:
"Naninananah...sleep in da tent...eee...mama comin'?"
"Yep, mom's coming."
"Papa comin' too?"
"Yes, he's coming too."
Followed by Uncle Greg, Purple blankie, Mister Bear, Hippo, Pink blankie...She needs this assuring little ritual where we name off all her favorites. The rambling list marks the most important people and possessions in her life. Samantha makes the top 3 every time.
And, according to Greg, Samantha is the same way about her cousin Chloe. For 5 years, Samantha was the only kid around on many of our outdoor family adventures. Greg, who is the most hard-core adventure Dad I've ever seen, brought little Sam on Arizona backroads and remote camping trips since she was a tiny infant. Now that she has a playmate to ride along beside her, she can't wait to pack up and hit the road for the next trip. She has been known to wake at 5:00 am just to ask if it's time to leave yet, and on one drive over to our meeting spot, Greg recalls that she chanted "Chloe...Chloe...Chloe..." for the last few minutes as they rode closer to seeing her cousin.
I'm glad the girls have this cousin attachment already. Mark, Chloe, and I live in the Southeast region of the Phoenix valley, the suburb of Chandler. It's farmland out here, at least once upon a time. While the houses, freeways, and amenities are plentiful now thanks to urban development, Mark and I always talk about moving somewhere closer to the mountains. Our neighborhood is just a bit flat, and flat-out boring if you ask Mark. But, while we have this home in this place, we're making it enjoyable. And one great benefit of being near the metro-Phoenix area is having our best fellow travelers, Greg and Samantha, only a 30 minute drive away.
All of these cousin moments that Samantha and Chloe enjoy on our adventures has made me wish I could be just a 30 minute drive from my cousins. I don't see my cousins nearly enough. We've never lived in the same city, or even same state. When I was growing up, as a family we'd make two road trips a year to Northeast Louisiana to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Since we were coming from so far away, our reunions would extend into multi-day slumber parties. Great for catching up on small-town gossip for our parents, but not a whole lot of adventure for us kids.
Thanks to my lively cousins, though, our family gatherings always seemed like an adventure to me. I have 12 cousins on the Sibley side of my family (+ 2 siblings), and most of them are girls. Being girls, they always brought drama to the vacation: fights over the boys next door, new experimental colors of hair dye, the hottest new music, and gutsy backtalk to our moms (oh how I wish I were a tenth as brave as them) that made Aunt Judy so mad she'd chew out the entire room. If that's not adventure, I don't know what is. But there is something freeing that made us cousins play, fight, talk, and be our silliest selves with each other every time we came together. No matter how long it had been since the last time. One summer, we pushed all the furniture out of the living room and danced like fools to a Richard Simmons workout video. It's on an awesome home video somewhere in my parents' cabinet. Sometimes, adventure isn't about the scenery or the miles. In the case of my family's gatherings (and now), it was about us kids learning the game of life together and finding a place where you felt like part of a team.
So, for the first time with my own kid, we packed up the Frontier and made the cross-country trip to the Sibley Aunts/Uncles/Cousins/and now Husbands/Kids gathering in June. Before heading East, our route made an arc up into the San Juan Mountains in Southern Colorado. We enjoyed relaxing in the cool weather and exploring old mining towns with friends. Greg and Samantha, faithful campmates they are, came with us on that first leg of ourJune adventure. Watching Chloe and Samantha play and run and act silly on a grassy hill, I thought of my first cousins. I realized how happy I was to be going to see them with my own husband and daughter, continuing the tradition through another generation. And the Colorado-to-Louisiana Road trip... is another story for another gallery. Meanwhile, I miss my cousins still, and wish we could meet up with them on more of our trips. For now I can be content watching Samantha and Chloe play in their own cousins adventures. The next generation of cousins, starting out strong. And I won't forget the video camera so they'll have their own home videos to embarass the heck out of them one day.