At the Farm GateCousins bond on and off farm
“When’s the next time we’re going to see our cousins?”
That question takes the No. 2 spot behind, “What are we doing tomorrow?” from the mouth of our 11-year-old son. Primarily, he wants to know when “something fun” makes the itinerary, and cousins always fit that description.
Time with farm cousins means laser tag around the farmstead, skipping rocks in the river and pedaling bikes in the farm shop. They chat on two-way radios from tractors and combines at harvest time. They share 4-H pig chores and this summer they will show them together for the first time. With city cousins, our kids love trips to the beach and views from Chicago skyscrapers. They walk to parks, play backyard badminton, golf from a three-story driving range and eat at fun restaurants unavailable in our sparsely populated county.
My kids’ list of wishes for summer break includes time with cousins from both sides of the family. I’ll gladly grant those wishes because cousins hold special, sibling-like friendships. Their relationships grow at birthday parties, the “kid table” on Thanksgiving, family vacations and sleepovers at Grandma’s house. As I grow older, my cousins and I realize that sharing love, joy and grief as a family has kept us connected since childhood. We understand each other’s histories with no need to impress nor explain inside jokes about Granny’s treadmill.
My cousins and I reminisce about scraping and painting barns, sledding in the cattle pasture, and making up dance routines to the old record player in Grandpa’s “pool room” (as in billiards, not swimming). We showed pigs together and played games past bedtime on New Year’s Eve. We caught lightning bugs and accidentally released them in the farmhouse. We fished strip-mine lakes for bluegill and snacked on Schwan’s ice cream sandwiches from Grandma’s freezer. In recent years, we Illinois cousins twice vacationed together with our cousins on the West Coast, a bond even distance cannot break.
Every summer, my first cousins initiate a game of whiffle ball in the farm yard. Now, second cousins also make up the roster. In that grassy space between the house and farm driveways, we relive childhood memories with our first friends and give our kids reason to ask when we’ll gather again.
About the author: Joanie Stiers, a wife and mother of two farm kids, writes from west-central Illinois, where her family grows corn, soybeans and hay and raises beef cattle.