When I was very young, it was extremely normal for family gatherings to occur regularly. We got together for holidays, birthdays, any excuse to gather for a meal was a good one. I am one of eleven cousins on that side of the family, and these events brought together any number of us to swing on Grandma’s front porch, play rounds of Euchre, swim in the lake, ice skate on that same lake, sing and tell stories. I’m the youngest of the girls and the oldest of the boys is still renowned for making everyone at the kids table laugh. And even as adults, we of the “kid” generation still often end up at a “kid” table, while our parents and grandmother are together and now, all of their children are grouped.

Cousins, as all children do, grow up and we split out across the country. And across the world. At one point there were cousins both in Germany and Japan, and while at the moment we’re all back in the general midwest region, I doubt that will last a lifetime and it’s still a stretch to get together.

So when the opportunity arose to spend a weekend across the state with two cousins and their families, it was time to pack up and look for directions.

Incidentally, Highway 21 is a long drive across the state. Lovely and peaceful, but one definitely slips into a state of “I can’t remember anything I’ve seen in the past thirty minutes, where am I?”

It was incredibly normal, after somewhere around six years (there are three more children since last time I saw this set of cousins), to step back into the familiarity of cousins. Some life stories, some family news, plans for the next year, adventures taken, all shared in a kitchen, or over food. There was an adult table and a kid table, and though it shouldn’t have surprised me, it was strange to sit down with my cousins and know WE were the adults. But a long history of shared times immediately filled the gap of a half dozen years apart.

And then, there was the water balloon fight. I wasn’t sure it was going to be warm enough, but a half hour or so of playing catcher for three boys batting a foam ball warmed me up enough. I was also reminded that I am not particularly blessed with a throwing arm.

I was, of course, the novel target. One can hit one’s dad, aunt, uncle or siblings with a squirt gun or water balloon anytime. Cousin Abigail? Not so much. I did put two parameters in place–no balloons directly in my face, please, and when I had the camera, I had technological device immunity. But I certainly ended up drenched and, despite eventually being armed only with a watering can, I managed to inflict my share of sogginess. The boys complained it wasn’t fair, me with a watering can, I argued that I only had arms reach to dump water on them, while they were planning distract and conquer tactics and lobbying balloons at me from some yards away. They play baseball and there was some decent pitching going on, trust me.

Arguing over the hose—note the child in the background who is ENTIRELY off the ground. Apparently S is capable of hovering and no one warned me about that trait in the extended family.

A mad dash after catching his aunt with a squirt gun.

Getting the adults with the hose.

A pair of soaked cousins. Trust me, I’d just wrung out my shirt.