My Mom and Dad both come from large families so I've been blessed to grow up with lots of aunts and uncles and a ton of cousins! When I was little I thought everyone had large extended families and when I started meeting people with one or two aunts and two or three cousins, I would feel so sorry for them. I think if I count both sides I've got at least 40 first cousins and then when you start adding their children, well . . . let's just say, there was always lots of family fun at reunions!! And there still is!
Storming the Castle . . .
the Twelve Days of Christmas
from Three Calling Birds
to Eight Maids a Milking
to Nine Ladies Dancing . . .
and yes, you guessed it
that's the Partridge in a Pear Tree
(and he still doesn't like to wear a tie!!) : )
We have two annual family picnics on the Kaiser side and one to two annual reunions on the Ritchie side, which is my Mom's gang. Our Ritchie Christmas Gathering of the Clans is a tradition that goes back to the days when we all crammed into my Nana Ritchie's wonderful end row house in Southwest Philly at Christmas time. She would make Scottish meat pie and shortbread and those of us relegated to the kids' table would chatter and peer into the corner cabinet that housed an amazing collection of salt and pepper shakers and giggle and eat as quickly as possible. We knew that Santa would be coming soon with something for everyone, thanks to the name exchange that the parents had orchestrated. Somehow PopPop Ritchie (or FaFa as some of the cousins called him) always seemed to miss Santa . . . and he always seemed so surprised that his timing was off every year!
Later we would gather around Nana's upright piano in her living room and sing Christmas carols which I always loved. There's a wonderful picture that someone has of all the cousins smooshed onto the couch - my older girl cousins with their bouffant hair that I so adored (both their hair and my older cousins!) the older boy cousins (who I also adored!) not very happy to be wearing those oh so constricting ties, we younger girl cousins in our good Christmas dresses (lovely but itchy!) and Mary Janes happily playing together - and all of us connected by the unbreakable ties of family.
Were there squabbles sometimes? Of course - it's a family. And families will squabble. Combine enough people who feel things deeply with inevitable differences and you will have squabbles. Sometimes you will have out and out battles. But the unquenchable spirit of family just about always wins out.
There were four "Clan Chiefs" out of the original seven at the 2011 Christmas party. These women are amazing. I'm glad I have their blood running through me. They lived through the Depression and World War II and tell stories of hopping the trolley to get to work or going to the movies for a nickel. They also tell stories about chewing the hot tar off the Philly streets because it was supposed to make your teeth white!!!
It might explain why alot of the teeth showing in those smiles are not their original ones!! : )
My Mom (standing), is the baby of the group and her older sisters left to right are Dot, Eleanor and Esther. Her sisters and my aunts. Women who have prayed for me and my adventures over the years. Women who would come to our house to sit at the dining room table and watch me and my neighborhood friends play in the backyard because I was always orchestrating something crazy and fun that they loved to peek in on. ("Today we're playing Peter Pan - I'm Wendy, you're Peter, you're the Lost Boys - GO!") Women with guts and hutzpah and strength for the hard times and who still love to enjoy music and games and laughter at a family Christmas party.
And now there are three. Dorothy (Ritchie) Cowgill, "Aunt Dot" (above in the red), is having a wonderful family reunion in Heaven with her twin brother, her parents, her husband, her other brother and her sister. No more sorrow. No more pain. Clothed in heavenly MacIntosh tartan. I'm pretty sure they are all doing the Highland Fling. Together. With Jesus. Eating the best meat pie and shortbread ever. It doesn't get any better than that.
Which is why we will find hope and joy in the midst of grief. For Aunt Dot knew and loved Jesus, her Savior and Lord. She served Him out of the gratitude she had for all He'd done for her. Her legacy lives on in two of those strangled-by-their-ties-cousins I still adore, Dave and Andy.
An accomplished musician herself, she loved to hear my Logan play the bagpipes. And so in loving tribute to my dear Aunt Dot with a fond see you later - for I will join you in that Heavenly Highland Fling myself one day - Amazing Grace from Easter service a few years back.