Down the Lane: Cousins’ birthday party rekindles memories

As my readers know, some of my best memories were spent down a lane where I grew up.

Though not all the memories were good, the good far outweighed any that were not pleasant.

Those are the memories I hold dear in my mind and come creeping back into my head so often.

Many of our best times were when my cousins came to visit.

While we enjoyed seeing all our cousins who came from Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, or from other counties in Kentucky, it was those we saw the most we grew closest to.

These were the cousins on my daddy’s side of the family. They were the ones we saw at every holiday. They were the ones we played with the most. They were the ones who knew us best.

They were the kids of my beloved aunts and uncle who would come any time they could. They did not need to be invited — they knew they were always welcome. They were family. We knew the same thing when it came to them, and that is how it should still be in people’s lives.

As far back as I can remember, we never got into a fight or even a fuss with any of them. For one thing, I feel pretty sure we would have had our butts busted if we had.

However, it never entered our mind. We were too busy talking, laughing and playing games that we made up out of the blue. It did not matter the season or time of year.

On Thursday night, my cousin Pat Ring gave a surprise birthday party for her sister, Barbara Vaughn, and her brother, James, who also had a birthday this month.

Barbara’s birthday was a few days before the party and Patricia had already given her a birthday gift and card. She had no idea of her party. She thought her birthday was over until next year.

When Patricia called me, she said she was thinking of surprising her with a party and getting all the cousins together at the same time. She told me to invite my friend Margaret, since she was Barbara’s friend also.

Talk about surprised when Barbara arrived at “Trish’s” (what her cousins call her) house. She thought she was coming to a meal with her sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, etc.

When her cousins began showing up, she was all smiles. When Wanda Wagers, an old friend from Florida, and Margaret showed up, her mouth gaped open.

Her smiles remained the rest of the evening and so did all of ours.

The meal, as usual at any Willoughby gathering, was enough to have eaten three times more. Her sisters helped with several of the delicious dishes.

My second and third cousins played in the pool outside until a shower moved them inside. It felt so much like years past as it got a little nosier with laughter and talk and every now and then a cry from a newborn baby.

When Trish told me of her plans, she said she hoped we did not notice her house that it could use a good cleaning. She said if it rains, we may be a little crowded. I reminded her how much fun we all used to have in the houses we played in as kids. None of us cared how big or how nice it was.

Barbara and James were not the only ones who received gifts on Thursday night. My husband Eric and I both have birthdays this week and we too got birthday gifts. Every cousin also received a beautiful keepsake of the evening that read, “Faith, Family and Friends” filled with goodies. The ladies also got two sets of pot holders that read the same.

Often when we all gathered we would have in our group some of their cousins on the other side of their family.

To this day, we always feel Kenny Woosley and his sisters, Jeanne and Linda, feel kin to us since they were a part of our lives so often. Sweet Jeanne has now passed away but was mentioned the other night.

Christine Robinson, wife of “Uncle Si” from “Duck Dynasty,” was often in our childhood games also. We never cared who joined us it just meant the more the merrier.

Thanks to Pat Ring for once again getting us all together. We have all changed so much in some ways.

Our cousin Marjorie is still her sweet self but is the oldest in our group and now past 80. She has trouble hearing and moves a lot slower but she made the effort to come even though she was still suffering from surgery a few weeks back.

We have all grown older and have our aches and pains. I will be another year older this Monday and will turn 71. Barbara turned 72.

We all know life has changed us some. We have not escaped illnesses, but we have not let anything change our love for one another.

We all could not help but think of those who have gone on. They will forever be a part of all of us since it was a big part of their guidance that made us who we are.

I can’t help but think we all helped one another get through life also, since we gave each other reasons to smile during the hard times in our lives. We are a united group of cousins it is plain to see.

I am hoping the young people that were present will be able to see this and continue their love for one another like we have.

For “Trish,” it is also easy to see, she lives her life by the words on that glass. Faith, family and friendship all radiate from her.

She is such a special person. I am so glad, we all still love each other after all these years.

Sue Staton is a Clark County native who grew up in the Kiddville area. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who is active in her church, First United Methodist Church, and her homemakers group, Towne and Country Homemakers.