These past few days, the girls and I had an opportunity to make a trip to Minnesota. Unfortunately, the occasion was to attend the funeral of one of my uncles. But, funerals have a way of bringing a lot of family and friends together which also makes it an opportunity to see a lot of loved ones that you might not see on a regular basis.
We traveled with my parents and my youngest brother, Eric, and arrived in Park Rapids on Sunday evening. Park Rapids is about a three hour drive from Minneapolis in rural Minnesota. I spent a number of summer and Christmas vacations there growing up so it is always a treat to return.
On Monday, we made the rounds, first stopping to visit my Grandma Impola, who is 92 years old and still living independently! (Though she gets daily visits from her children who live in the area.) One aunt and uncle were already there and we hadn’t been there long before another aunt, uncle and cousin showed up. (All of them had driven from Michigan on Sunday.) Eventually, all 14 of us made our way to a local cafe for lunch where I enjoyed a delicious walleye sandwich (when in Minnesota…) and some more catching up. From there it was on to my Uncle Paul and Aunt Esther’s dairy farm where the girls were excited to see cows and a real working farm.
For the rest of the time, we were busy with funeral events but of course, that involved seeing multitudes of cousins, aunts, and uncles. The girls were excited to meet some second cousins (the children of all the first cousins that I grew up with). At one point, when we were eating a meal at the reception after the funeral, they were looking around at different kids asking, “Is that one of my second cousins?” As I scanned the room, I realized, “I think every kid in this room is one of the girls’ second cousins!”
My dad’s side of the family is full of big families – three of his siblings have 12 or more children and many of those (now grown) kids have 8-10 children. So, since I have over 40 first cousins, it makes sense that my girls have over 120 second cousins (on my dad’s side alone)!
Watching the girls trying to awkwardly forge friendships with cousins they didn’t really know made me thankful to be an adult – I remember how timid and self-conscious I was whenever we would arrive in Minnesota after an absence of many years. It is nice to now relate to my cousins as adults and share what is going on in our lives with the foundation of warm childhood memories and a shared faith undergirding our conversation.
I am thankful for the opportunity we had to visit and look forward to our next trip!