Every summer, during the last full week of July, my family and I live our version of Cynthia Rylant’s The Relatives Came. That is when my cousin Tim, his wife Annie, and their four now-grown children spend a week with us at the beach. Our group of three generations has grown over the years, as each of his children brings significant others and introduces them to this place and our zany time together. This year we are a total of 15, staying in two small summer cottages that sit side by side on Niantic Bay. Between the two houses, we share two bathrooms, one dishwasher, 4 pets, and there are too many air mattresses to count.
When my girls were small, they would stand on the grassy hill out front from early in the morning of the day the cousins were arriving, shield their eyes from the sun, and squint hopefully out at the Sound until they spied the ferry making its way across the water and behind the point. Once the ferry disappeared from view, the girls knew their wait was coming to an end.
As the years passed, the girls abandoned their lookout spot and would instead text the cousins for updates. “They’re 15 minutes away,” or “They are just driving off the ferry now, Mom. How long does it take to drive from there to here?” my girls would ask me.
While much has changed- the sand castle building and chase games have been replaced with fiercely competitive rounds of Apples to Apples and other card games- much has also stayed the same. We gather as a group every evening for dinner. We go to Frosty Treat for ice cream after dinner at least once during the week. We sit around and tell family stories. We laugh- a lot.
But this year something especially wonderful and unexpected happened. My cousin Tim’s youngest, Colleen, and her beau Jay got engaged two nights ago. On the beach. Right in front of the house. Just before dinner. I was in the kitchen making a salad when I heard the screen door slam and Claire call out, “Mom, Mom! Guess what? Beenie and Jay just got engaged”
You can’t imagine the excitement. Within minutes, all 15 of us were on the beach, hugging and crying and laughing and cheering. There we were, making noise and causing quite a scene on the sand, a scene right out of our version of The Relatives Came.