Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Eve with the Cousins

I mentioned a few days ago that Christmas Eve has always been one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. For years, we've always gone to Nana and Mick's (my dad's parents) on Christmas Eve to celebrate with a portion of our extended family ... I don't think all the Nethertons could fit into one room.

We're all close in age, separated only by a few years, and we were best friends growing up. Nana and Mick's was always our meeting spot where we shared in Sunday lunches, afternoon games of hide-n-seek, endless games of Horse (Casey always won), Easter egg hunts, boogie board rides on the lake, and a slew of other games and good times together.

Here's one of our early Christmas Eve's together.

We're all wearing matching polar bear sweatshirts with our names on them. Clearly, it's impossible to rally this many little ones (all within three years of each other in age) to all look at the camera and smile in unison. Or smile at all! This same year, we all got matching stools with our names on them, and our parents all thought it would be a great idea to line us up in front of the tree on our stools and have us sing "Jingle Bells." There's video footage somewhere in our family archives, but let me summarize by saying it was a disaster.

My dear sweet cousin, Casey, looks as if she's in a complete panic in this picture. We later found out she was feverish as a result of her being allergic to Christmas trees. Oops.

Here we are a little bit older. Our cousins seemed to have moved on from the matching outfit phase, but Chris and I just couldn't let it go. This is also the year I learned the invaluable lesson that I was only going to get by in this life by straightening my hair.

I have such warm, rich memories from my childhood Christmas' over at Nana and Mick's. Things continued to evolve and change over the years, and my little brother, Taylor, would eventually join the gang. But as we got older, it became more difficult for us all the be at Nana and Mick's for Christmas Eve, especially since my cousin Michael has been in the Army for the greater part of a decade and stationed in Washington when not serving in Iraq.

That's what made this Christmas so special -- Michael is home, which meant for the first year in many years all of the cousins were back together on Christmas Eve (Taylor snuck off before the pictures were taken).

The last time this happened, I was a junior in college. ... which was longer ago than I'm willing to admit.

We also got to introduce Michael to the spouses -- Ashley, Ty and Josh -- and introduce the spouses to Michael's wife, Lorena, and their kids Gabby and Mason.

I love how our family is growing, but our closeness never changes. I look forward to many more Christmas Eve's with the cousins!