When I was growing up, my little brother and sister and I were very close to our first cousins, even though there weren’t that many of them. In particular, we were close with my cousins James and Thomas who were more like little brothers to me than cousins. My brother, sister and I never lived more than a mile or two away from James and Thomas, plus we attended the same schools, and we basically were just always hanging out together.

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My son E (shirtless) and my cousin James’ son J (with hat) at Bonnaroo last summer.

And now my children are very close to all of their cousins as well, including my first cousin James’ kids (that makes my children and his children first cousins once removed, right?). But my children have so many first cousins that they don’t have to confine their company to just a couple of them like I did. To wit, my little brother Robert Allison has four children ranging in age from 11 to 17, while my little sister Betsy Allison has three kids, ages 10, 15 and 19. That means that my three oldest children, Henry (who would be 26), J (age 22) and E (age 20) have seven first cousins on just my side of the family. And then, since I am now married to Jon, my two youngest, C (age 10) and G (age 7) not only have those seven Allison first cousins but they also have four more first cousins on Jon’s Hickman side of the family. So that’s a lot of first cousins. And they’re all very close.

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All the Allison cousins: my 4 kids, Betsy’s 3 and Robert’s 4, ranging in age from 7 to 22.

 

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My 4 with Betsy’s 3 at Christmas last year.

 

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My J and E with Betsy’s M and E at my mother’s lake house last summer.

My two youngest kiddos spend most of their playtime with one cousin or another (in fact, as I write this I can hear a gaggle of little girls – all cousins – playing in C and G’s room). Their cousins are always their first-choice playmates, just as was the case with my older kids when they were little. One interesting relationship amongst all these cousins is between my sister Betsy’s 10 year old daughter NC and Jon’s brothers’ four children. NC and the Hickman cousins love playing together even though they aren’t actually cousins to each other at all. What I mean is that Jon’s brothers’ Hickman children are my children’s first cousins, while Betsy’s Allison daughter NC is also my children’s first cousin. However,  NC and Jon’s brothers’ children aren’t actually related to one another at all (you’re  keeping up here, right?). Jon’s parents include NC in many Hickman excursions and adventures so she feels like she’s an honorary Hickman cousin and I’m not sure that this particular group of little girls realize that Allison child NC isn’t actually kin to the Hickman offspring. One of the things that all the Hickman cousins, including C and G enjoy more than just about anything is accompanying their parents and grandparents to the small family tax firm where Jon, his father and my sister in law all work. The company is located in a beautiful old house in downtown Sevierville, and C and G have been going to work there with Jon since my 8 weeks of maternity leave was up with each of them and I had to go back to work myself, back to workplaces that weren’t exactly as baby-friendly as Jon’s family business is. So first as babies and right up until they started kindergarten, C and G would go to the office each weekday with Jon, and Jon’s mom would meet them there and help him all day, every day as he juggled tax prep with entertaining two very active little girls. Jon’s sister in law also brought her babies/toddlers to the office each day so the family actually ended up setting up a nursery on the second floor of the house where Janice, my mother in law, could hold court in kid-central, reading to the girls  (they are all girls), singing to them, playing games with them and just generally being her awesome grandmother self. And my girls didn’t stop going to “the office” when they started school. They still love going there with Jon so much that on pretty much all school holidays and many days each summer they accompany Jon to work to meet up with their Hickman grandmother and whichever other Hickman cousins happen to be there that day. NC comes with my girls on many of these days as well. The office nursery is now a playroom loaded with games and legos and costumes, etc.

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Jon’s office in downtown Sevierville where the cousins all like to hang out as often as possible, including this week for spring break.

Downtown Sevierville is very pedestrian-friendly so in addition to playing with them at the office, my mother in law Janice has also been taking her grandchildren for walking/strolling/bike riding excursions to the public pool and the library, park, etc since they were old enough to be carried in a sling or baby backpack. She still can be seen on a regular basis ushering a gaggle of little girls around downtown Sevierville. And she also takes them to other interesting places too. Like two days ago, she took all six of her own grandchildren, plus NC to the Titanic Museum in Sevier County. The girls were all able to go with their grandmother to the museum because this week has been spring break, and all of them have gone to the office every day this week to play with one another. For the last several years, the girls have spent all of spring break at the office putting together a skit/music performance which they’ve performed on Friday for all the parents who have left work to come see the show on the office’s front porch. The girls have dubbed these spring break Friday performances “Cousins Day,” and it’s definitely becoming a tradition. Today was Friday of spring break week so today was Cousins Day 2018, and may I just say that the performance was the best one yet?

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Here’s the flyer that greeted parents as we arrived for the Cousin Day performance today at Jon’s office.

We weren’t sure what exactly today’s performance would include but we had some hints when NC asked her mother to please pick up two orange hats, a sombrero and a bag of fake mustaches and to bring them to the office before the show started. My sister actually found these items this morning and brought them for the girls to use in the show.

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Here’s 10 year old cousin NC, dressed as a slab of meatloaf for a dance number. This was particularly tricky since NC is currently using crutches for a sprained ankle. But she did meatloaf everywhere proud.

 

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Here’s C playing “Rocky Top” on her violin for the assembled parents. This was one of the musical numbers for the show. (She’s not actually dressed entirely in orange because she played Rocky Top, she’s dressed that way because she performed another number as a dancing carrot.)

Katie Allison

Katie Allison

Here’s a gap toothed G, taking a break from her part as another dancing carrot (that’s why they told Betsy to bring orange hats – they were going to be playing carrots today)

As you can imagine from these high quality photos, Cousins Day was a rousing success. After the girls finished performing, we all retired to the office’s conference room for a tasty lunch of pizza and cookies. I’m so glad that all 5 of my children have grown up with (or in C and G’s case, are currently growing up with) lots of cousins around. I hope and expect that all of these cousins will stay close into adulthood. And I also hope that we get to gather on Cousins Day each spring break for at least a few more years to watch things like dancing carrots and meatloaf, plus Mexican hat dances (that’s what the requested sombrero was for.)

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