My mother was an only child. My dad has one sister. So when it comes to first cousins, you might think my brothers and I came up a little thin.
You’d be so wrong.
Each summer, our parents would pack the four of us into the station wagon—Sutton, Randy, William and me—and we’d start the long journey to visit my cousins at Misty, a tucked-away home place so wonderful it had its own name. The drive took days, it seemed, but eventually we’d make that turn off New Liberty Road and enter a magical world surrounded by tall trees, deep woods and barefoot-trodden pathways that held a promise of anywhere. There at the front door would stand Aunt Nancy and Uncle John, two people with hearts so open you could feel the hugs before you got out of the car. Uncle John had a camera over his shoulder (always), and peeking from behind Aunt Nancy’s skirt would be some assortment of the three girl (yea!) cousins: Carey, Kathleen and Meg.
They were a bit shy, as I recall, while we Rigg children stood back in awe, mere mortals.
Our cousins had their own lake, you see, a swimming lake with a little beach and a floating dock just far enough out there that you had to be brave (or a teenager) to make the distance. Our cousins had a wonderful, rambling house that changed floor plans between visits with open windows and open doors and so many animals it was impossible to keep count. Our cousins had a barn, and a garden, and bushes that grew blueberries you could just pick and eat, right then and there.
There were neighbors, as well, summer residents with children we got to know through the years we visited Misty. Our collective included siblings whose ages stair-stepped like ours, creating that wonderful group dynamic of there being, at any given time, someone older to admire and younger to boss around. I loved, in particular, our coming together to develop and present an original summer stock performance each visit. We’d head down to the barn, some collection of the cousins and the neighbors, where we’d spend hours writing,
fighting over casting, and designing elaborate costumes from the big costume trunks. Then just after dinner, with the summer heat subsiding and the lighting bugs flickering, we’d gather all the parents on the lawn for The Performance.
Life eventually got in the way, what with basketball camp and band camp and those busy teenage years. And in no time we became adults ourselves, cousins scattered here and there. The trips to Misty became more and more rare.
We were together again, many of us, for my Mom’s funeral in February. To say it was a comfort to have our extended family surround us is an understatement; their presence brought a peace I didn’t expect. As we hugged goodbye on that cold winter day, we made a promise to gather again, soon.
We kept that promise last weekend.
There is so much to tell. But I’ll just start with this, from our morning hike around the lake:
You are light. You are love. This one, my amazing cousin, was definitely meant for you.
up next: the visit to misty, part 3