When I was a kid, summer time was the best! Well, I hated the mosquitoes and the intense heat, but I knew that June would present 4PM thunderstorms; July would mean cousin sleepovers at Grandma & Granddaddy's; and August held cookouts at the beach. During those months, I got a chance to be me - my silly, goofy, nerdy, daydreaming self. And, I got to be myself with the cousins. With them, I got to see all the ways we were alike.
With school finally ended, the heat would come in more intensely every day, ushering in storms that arrived faithfully at four o'clock. Sometimes, Granddaddy would leave the TV on so that we could watch Tom & Jerry, but most of the time, we had to be quiet. "God was talking." And boy, was He angry! It felt like God was walking while He talked. Stomping, really. The lightning and thunder would run together so fast, I used to imagine God stomping and clapping His hands, as if He was preaching a fierce and fiery sermon, telling us, "Get yourselves together! Jesus is coming soon!"
The house would get so quiet (because if we tried playing while God was talking, we got in trouble), I would hide under the dining room table to stay out of sight to play. Lying across the chairs, I would imagine I was in the upstairs of some great house. Sometimes, my younger cousins (Tish, Bill, Andy, and Daborn) would join me, crawling around the legs "downstairs", we would whisper about how God was talking, and how serious Granddaddy looked during His sermon. Granddaddy was a bit superstitious, but I hear he had calmed down in his old age. I had heard that when he was younger, he and the children would sit in a closet until the storm was over. Needless to say, I was grateful we could be out in the A/C. Grandma would play her crossword puzzles during the storms. They never scared her.
A few weeks later, the big cousins would come from Atlanta, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia to stay with Grandma and Granddaddy. Me and the little cousins who were already in Beaufort would spend the nights, too. It was so much fun!!! Although it was a bunch of us (sometimes it got to be as many as 12 of us kids at the house), the Grands seemed unfazed. I think it was because, we were pretty entertaining. My cousins were and are still very funny people! Someone always said something witty (usually it was one of the big male cousins - Al, Devry, Roy, or Brad, then sometimes, it was Dawna holding court all by herself), and the rest of us would fall out laughing. Also, we danced and sang a lot. I learned how to do the Hustle from my cousin Alecia, while listening to Peaches & Herb sing "Shake Your Groove Thing" over and over again.
The Grands were pretty entertaining, too. Although they were retired, during the days, they would practice their music for the church choirs they directed. Some nights, they would have card parties, and I'd watch my Grandma talk trash while she played Bid Whist. That was her favorite! Grandma loved all sorts of games: Pokeno, Boggle, Scrabble, Spades, Spoons. Granddaddy had fight parties. I learned about boxing, football, and even golf from him. The Grands were the best!
Before the drives back to drop the cousins off, we would get to the beach. Hunting Island beach on St. Helena's Island was my favorite place to be during the summers. We'd park as close to the lighthouse as we could, and set up our tables. All day long, we kids would be in and out of the water, and we'd take a few trips to the top of the lighthouse. I was always scared, but my cousins made me feel safe. My cousin Pazanta would say, "Close your eyes, and listen to the water and seagulls. Feel the breeze..." I did those things and always felt better. Her voice centers me still.
Families can be made of some really cool people. Hopefully, you'll find time to get together with yours and find out what you have (or don't have) in common. Take time to laugh a little. I promise you'll feel better. And these days, we all need a little "better", don't you think?