2011.08.17 Those cousins never grow up

Written by David Green.

By the shores of Lake Louise

By DAVID GREEN

If I remember right, I hadn’t been at the Lake Louise cottage for more than an hour when cousin-in-law Paula said something about hoping I would gather enough material for a column.

I guess my plight is well known. I’m always in need of column material. If I do something or go somewhere, it better prove worthy of column fodder or I’ve wasted my time.

I told Paula that I didn’t think I was going to get much from the visit, and I think I said something about wasting my time, but I think she knows I was joking. I don’t really consider a column-less excursion as a waste of time. Instead, it’s just a bonus if it does result in something.

Colleen and I drove my parents to a gathering of relatives from my mother’s side of the family. Two of her three sisters were present. Seven of the 12 cousins were able to attend. A good time was had by all, I think.

Friday was my Uncle Burt’s birthday—somewhere up in the 80s—as well as Uncle Bert and Aunt Toni’s anniversary—somewhere in the low 60s.

They had rented a cottage on Lake Louise which is also apparently known as Thumb Lake. I don’t know which name came first. It’s located a few miles northwest of Vanderbilt near the top of the Lower Peninsula.

As we neared our destination, my parents mentioned that they both attended church camp at the large Methodist camp at Lake Louise, although I assume not at the same time. I don’t know if they ever tried to figure that out. It was a few years ago, and it was Lake Louise to them, even though we turned down Thumb Lake Road.

My father attended as a Congregationalist because the two Morenci youth groups were meeting together at that time in their history. Since my father wasn’t a Methodist, he didn’t have to attend the sessions that most of the kids were engaged in. He had more time to play.

It took about four and a half hours Friday for us to drive to the lake. The trip back in the 1930s must have taken my father almost double that time. He rode in the back of the Hummon family’s farm truck with a canvas stretched over the top. How things have changed.

Several of us cousins see each other at least once every couple of years, but this gathering was more inclusive with Cousin Jeff and his family in from Oregon. There were four generations present.

It seems funny how I look at my cousins and see them as kids. I suppose it varies a little from cousin to cousin as to what age I peg them at. 

Tim and Jeff are always elementary school age. The same for their sister, Sue.  Andy is young high school. Janine and Karen must be around junior high age. Gail is probably the “oldest” although she’s the youngest. She was quite young when I was a kid, but I’ve seen her a lot as an adult and I think that’s where she’s lodged.

It’s rare to visit with Cousin Steve, out in Nebraska, but he pretty much remains the little elementary school kid. Visits were easier when we were kids and everyone lived in the Morenci/Flint/Detroit area. Now we’re spread across six states.

The cousin spouses escape this childhood fixation since I’ve known them only as adults, but I can imagine. Besides, when I look at my Cousin Jeff’s daughter Lena, for example, I must be seeing a lot of her mother, Julie, when she was a senior in high school.

These visits are all about memories of the past. I look at Uncle Burt and remember when he convinced all the kids he was serving kangaroo meat at a Christmas dinner.

One cousin or another will recall the games of Risk that were played after the holiday meal. Cousin armies moving across the map seeking world domination. Someone will mention “Running Nude Along the Bean,” a movie that my brother Dan created.

Sometimes the memories take an odd turn. How about this: Cousin Tim, now a Methodist pastor, knows former Morenci resident Amy Ackland from his church near Boyne City. Amy is still lodged in my mind as early high school and younger.

At least a few of the dozen cousins are likely to make it into our 80s like the five senior members from this event. When we gather for someone’s birthday, I wonder if they will have grown up. I’ll probably still see Tim as an 8-year-old as he hobbles across the lawn.

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