My Christmas Starts This Weekend!

I have lots of extended family members on my mom’s side. My mom is one of six children and there are seventeen living grandchildren of which I am one. Two of my cousins died in childhood accidents. We’re mountain people. So that tells you right away that we’re an eclectic bunch. My grandfather, Doyle Miller, was a preacher/tomato farmer. He was a character unto his own and the consummate patriarch of the family. I could write a book about him, and all the stories he used to tell us. He passed away in 1996. My “Mammaw” Miller passed away in 1977 after an 18-month battle with a brain tumor that developed very shortly after she was struck by lightning while taking sheets off a clothesline.

My mom and her brothers and sisters are all characters and have distinct and unique personalities. There were three girls and three boys five of whom are still living. My oldest uncle died in 2006 of pancreatic cancer. My mom’s two sisters are twins named Mary and Martha…very apt for twins born into a preacher’s family.

The Miller Christmas get-together is tomorrow, and there’s always a full house and a lot of laughter. The same stories are told every year…tales of past coon hunts and fishing trips which include stories of an empty dynamite casing being thrown into a campfire “just to see what would happen” and chainsaws being wielded in a national park where they were strictly forbidden…and yes, game wardens were involved.

My girl cousins and I talk about the yearly slumber party my grandfather used to host at his house for all his granddaughters, and how he would pop us popcorn and judge the beauty contest. Our “stage” was a well-worn leather ottoman. The contest always ended with Pappaw saying, “You all win. You all are my beauty queens!”

A couple of my cousins have been unable to have children like me, and so I find a lot of comfort talking with them as they go through some of the same emotions as I do this time of year. We are especially close due to this shared situation.

My seventeen cousins are more like sisters and brothers to me as we spent many a Summer together picking tomatoes on my grandfather’s farm. Every day of picking was rewarded with a trip to the river to swim in late afternoon….sweet, sweet, Norman Rockwell-like memories.

So, I’m excited about this weekend. While my nuclear family may be small I’m rich with extended family, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

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