There are 12 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild on my Mom's side of the family. I have the fun honor of being the guineapig, aka, the first grandchild. Because of the nature of our family, I am also a lot older than most of my cousins. 26 years older than the most recent addition and 13 years older than the closest one to my age outside of my own brothers. My youngest uncle is only 6 years older than me so you can see how things get really blended really fast. We laugh when we gather for family photos at weddings because usually the opposite family might have 8 or so standing there and we have over 2 dozen! I love it.
(5 people have been added since this photo almost 3 years ago!)
Yesterday was Memorial Day and I didn't celebrate with a traditional flowers on a grave sort of tribute. Rather, I packed up my 17 month old son and my mother and I headed North to the small town where I grew up to help my grandparents sort through some things for a move. But this Memorial Day will never be forgotten. As we unpacked boxes of handmade linens, doilies, dishes and photographs, my Gram and Granddad shared with us (my Aunt Bekka and her kids, my mom and her kid and grandkid) the stories of where things came from and why they were important. We learned how to tell who made what doily based on color, (always my Great Grandma), or not (Great-Great-Grandma Starkey) and who "tatted" as opposed to crocheted (Great-Great-Great Aunt Ida, who incidentally was also the woman we've heard the infamous story about her smoke alarm going off which turned out to be her door bell :) ). We laughed as we found a coffee cup belonging to my Great-Great Aunt JuJu that had a matching ash-try saucer. Coffee and cigs, apparently the breakfast of champions, or at least sweet Great Aunts. And we cried as we admired an elephant bank and single framed photo--all we have to remember my Great Grandmother's brother who died in a tragic accident as toddler. And then giggled some more as we found my Great Grandmother's infamous picture holding the neighbors cat. The story goes that a traveling photographer took it and thought having Virginia Rose (that's my Grandmother's mother's name) holding the neighbors cat would be cute... "Now, Virginia," he said, "You hold on tight to that cat and don't you let it go..." and when she did let it go? She had held it a little too tight because that cat was dead as a doornail.
And as I wandered out on the farm with my son and thought of all the great memories I had there growing up. I saw my cousin Brenna moving her bucket calves with our proud Granddad standing by and I remembered my own bucket calf that he taught me to care for. And as Granddad took us out on the golf cart to the edge of the pasture I remember my first taste of freedom and my parents would let us kids wander anywhere as long as we stayed in the fence. I just knew I was miles away from the farmhouse because everything is big and magical when you're a kid. And while I've grown up and realized that maybe not everything is quite so big, there's still a lot of magic to me on that farm. My earliest memories are of the house being built and my most fun memories involve that pasture and the cows and hanging out with my grandparents. Except for the time Gram put my Barbie underwear in the burn bin. That was not fun. :) Why couldn't she have just cleaned them out?! ;) Just kidding Grammie, incase you're reading this. And here in a few weeks my grandparents are going to move to to a new house. One that my son will probably know as theirs. And he'll go and remember playing in the yard and riding the golfcart and a number of other things I'm sure I can't even think of yet. And as we pulled away from the farm yesterday evening I saw a little mound of dirt in the pasture with a kid-built fort and a bunch of Tonka trucks paving their way through dirt roads. And I couldn't help but smile as my mom backed up the car for us to take a second look, because now it's time for another generation to remember that pasture and to love that land and make new memories--my younger cousins.
(Almost the Dolloff Girls, 2 more are marrying in this summer! )
The best part of being the oldest grandchild in my family is this, the memories. I have fond memories of all four of my still living grandparents and, are you ready for this? I vividly remember and had relationships with 4 great grandparents, a number of great-great aunts, one great great great (yes, that's 3!) aunt and there were even a couple great great grandparents still living when I was born. How awesome is that?! I can't get over it really. I'm so blessed. Because having a family history that rich is better than winning the lottery. It's getting to actually know your genelogical line so what when personality traits or faces show up two and three generations later, we know EXACTLY where they came from. Because we saw them get passed down. And for the generations to come who won't remember we have hope. A hope God promised to Abraham in Genesis 17:7, "I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you." And one day I imagine we'll all get together in Heaven and hear these stories firsthand, although I'm sure they've gotten a little better through the years. :) And that was my Memorial Day. One that I will never forget.