Enough about the travel to Tennessee. Now for the stuff when we got there. There were 57 family members–dads, moms, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers, and most of all cousins. First cousins, second cousins, and removed cousins and a few not blood—or current marriage–related at all, but just as welcome. Even a wayward resort employee joined the fun. (Who could resist?)

Follow along closely as we swing and dangle from the family tree. (My dad is a pro at keeping this all straight.) My kids and my sister’s kids are first cousins. My first cousins are my kids’ first cousins once removed. My cousins’ kids, are my kids’ second cousins. My kids’ second cousin’s kids, are my kids’ second cousins once removed. Those same kids would be my cousins twice removed. There were no third cousins, but there could be at the next reunion in 2010, then again, maybe not.

For the sake of this post we will just use the word cousin, even though “cuz” seems more appropriate in Tennessee, it just gets annoying and there are too many teachers in this family who would mark-up their screens with a red grease pencil.

With miles between us and no glaring physical attributes that join us together, there are still similar reflections rippling in the gene pool. The DNA springs up like volunteer dandelions growing in a lawn. There’s no rhyme or reason, but the resemblances and attitudes, sometimes aptitudes, just feel like home. That’s when you appreciate the value of family in its greatest sense.

These are the things I learned that stood out most:
• Like determined dandelions, the McCormicks have a stubborn gene and enjoy a challenge;
• More than stubborn, there is a sarcasm that is readily available and applauded in most cases;
• The spouses are good sports;
• A cousin in Chicago can make a triple taco with her tongue like I can;
• Two of the youngest cousins watch TV while flipped upside down on the couch;
• Four cousins reached the highest level of Girl Scouts and have successfully squashed the production of “Girl Scouts Gone Wild,” wherein you would hear familiar phrases with new meanings like, “See my badges!” “Wanna buy some cookies?”
• Family trees can be really tall;
• The Uncles are a little like Friars—silent, but still on their rockers (for the most part);
• No matter who is driving, it takes four times as long to get back from anywhere in Tennessee;
• The “scoop” is something different on the farm than in an ice cream shop;
• My aunt was a poor driver—aha! It’s genetic after all!
• Barbie dolls go skinny-dipping in creeks in Pennsylvania;
• What’s with all the teachers? They’ll never be done with school;
• Cousins have done walks and runs—marathons even–to raise money to treat leukemia and cancer;
• A quilt can be made in a week—and by amateur quilt makers;
• Sunrises in Tennessee include the sound of bugs hitting the window (bad drivers);
• After it rains in the Smokies, the mountains actual smoke;
• Shopping is in our genes, we just can’t escape it;
• The McCormicks got to wear the Smart Hats in the McCormick vs. Goff trivia game;
• Spelling T-E-N-N-E-S-S-E-E can be more difficult than it seems;
• There is a future for little kids who like to hula hoop;
• Gladys Knightgarner and the Bum-Pips shall live in our hearts forever;
• Really great Chex Mix is called “It” or “Texas Trash”;
• Add oil and dill weed and even stale pretzels will entice you to eat the whole bag;
• Playing games involving shoes and windows are sure to shatter your mom’s nerves;
• Who needs 18 holes for a round of golf? One will do (it’s a matter of perspective);
• Be glad when your daughter plays with imaginary friends and casts herself as the quiet girl who doesn’t talk;
• Planning a reunion takes a lot of work;
• Cousins look alike and often look like their aunts;
• Face it, Goffs really are just McCormicks;
• Families take care of each other;
• There’s always room for more;
• There’s a lot of love left in these fields.

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