I feel lucky that I grew up surrounded by extended family, and I suspect that many of our readers do as well. A big reason I moved back to Kentucky was to be physically closer to my family, but, more specifically, so my kids could grow up the way I did. Although I just have one brother, each of my parents has two siblings, so I had several cousins living in my hometown (an aunt and four more cousins live in Chicago). And oh, the second cousins! My maternal grandmother had seven siblings and my maternal grandfather was one of six; most of them settled either in Muhlenberg or Todd County and it seemed like all of them and their progeny belonged to the church we attended. I have many special memories involving my cousins. One summer trip to Chicago included learning how to blow bubbles (and the inevitable cutting gum out of my hair), seeing ET at the movies, and being introduced to the wonderful world of Roald Dahl. My cousin David let me borrow his copy of the Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and I read it on the long car ride back to Kentucky. I remember camping at Kentucky Lake with my paternal grandparents in the summer, all of the kids sleeping like sardines in one of the camper's beds, with four little white blonde mops sticking out of the top of the blankets.
How do you make memories like that with family that is far away? Well, you don't (or at least, I couldn't pull it off). Now that we live closer to home, we're trying. No, we don't all live in the same small town, but we live close enough to catch my nephew's last basketball game of the season, or for my in-laws to drive up just for the weekday evening so that they don't miss the kids' Christmas program at school. A trip home doesn't have to be centered around a birthday party - we can go home just because - and it doesn't require time off of work or an 8 hour hellish car ride with two screaming kids. I can't give them the volume of cousins that I have, but I'd like to think we are making up for that in quality. I mean, don't they look they are having a blast?