I don’t know why it always happens this way, but in my experience, children tend to be closer to their mother’s side of the family. My guess is that women tend to cling to that family support system more, and therefore make the extra effort to spend time with their extended family. As a result, their children grow up surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins from the maternal bloodline.
The Fraser family is no different.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my mom’s family. In the rare instance when my parents went out, my nana was the one to watch me. We spent holidays with my mom’s two siblings, and I was always the center of attention as the youngest grandchild.
On my dad’s side of the family, it was a different story. My dad is one of five, so parties have always been an endless stream of relatives. There are 12 Fraser cousins, my sisters and I included, so there were many more opportunities for games, Easter egg hunts and an intense round of Marco Polo in the swimming pool. That being said, if it wasn’t Christmas, Easter or the Fourth of July, chances are, I wasn’t seeing my cousins.
I didn’t think much of it growing up, but as I got older, I saw how close all of my cousins were, and felt a pang of jealousy. It wasn’t that they were closing us out, or that we would rather spend time with mom’s family; it was just the natural order of things. It had always been that way, and for years, we never questioned it. Traditions have a way of doing that, for better or for worse.
Two years ago, I realized that nothing was going to change unless I made an effort to change it.
My New Year’s resolution that year was to forge a closer relationship with my dad’s side of the family, and I’m glad to report that it did not meet the same fate as last year’s pledge to go to the gym three times a week (for the record, I have since cancelled my Planet Fitness membership).
After a few dinners with just the girls, we found out about a fantastic East Greenwich business, Clayground, which offers “Diva Nights” on the first Friday of every month. Clayground stays open late those Fridays and women over the age of 21 come in to paint their own pottery that will later be glossed and fired. What makes it even more entertaining is that you can bring your own food and drinks, which on occasion, results in some pretty sloppy pottery. Diva Nights sustained us for quite a while, until we recently decided it was time to bring the male cousins in for the fun.
Saturday was the first of what I hope is an annual, or even more often, “Cousins Night” tradition. Everyone has that one relative who is quite clearly the glue of the family, and for the Frasers, Erin is that cousin. She’s the one who babysits the next generation whenever you ask, takes grandma to church and coordinates family functions. After buying my grandmother’s house, she also took over the majority of family parties so that the Frasers barely missed a beat. The only difference is that Erin’s taste is a little subtler. And by subtle, I mean it doesn’t include patriotic eagle wallpaper.
Erin took my New Year’s resolution and applied it to the whole family. A total of 14 cousins and significant others came from the five branches of the Fraser family, and the rain did little to put a damper on the festivities, thanks to Erin’s planning. Not content to leave her guest to their own devices, she had planned several games for the event, complete with prizes. The “outsiders” as we labeled the non-blood relatives (we’re really sweet when we get together) held their own in the competitions, and Chris’ new girlfriend showed everyone up in a complex game in which the player puts a spoon in their mouth and has to shovel peanuts out of a bowl and into a baseball hat. She transferred 108 peanuts in a minute.
She may not be a blood relative, but her competitive streak is distinctly Fraser.
We had a lot of laughs that night (mostly at the expense of our parents), and thanks to Erin the ringleader, I think it was the first of many “kids” only, non-holiday get-togethers.
Does this mean I have to start keeping all my resolutions?