I grew up in Essex County, NJ with my Sisters and a whole host of cousins. Both my parents came from families of 7, my Mom’s side, blended, Dad’s side, not. My Mom’s immediate family all lived in Ecuador, but she had a first cousin who she lived with when she first came to the US. We spent almost every weekend with her cousin and her family. We all called my Mom’s cousin, “Aunt” since we had no other “Aunt” on my Mom’s side. Her daughter was like a Sister to me and my Sisters. My cousin and I spent every other weekend being “best cousins” since my cousin was very diplomatic and split herself between my younger Sister and me. (she never missed a week!) We would all play together, but she would just favor me one week and my Sister the next. It was an understood thing and we just went with it. 🙂
One of the things we used to do as kids was trample around in the woods behind my Cousin’s house, (it was more like a mansion) It was the house my “Uncle” grew up in, complete with secret back stairs for the days of servants and a servant’s quarters near the kitchen. It had 2 fireplaces, a library, baby grand piano, a beautiful staircase, gorgeous velvet chairs, a sun room, basement, attic, complete with amazing train sets, 6 bedrooms, claw bathtubs, 5 bathrooms, a porch, 2 car garage, large driveway around the whole house, dog pen, swimming pool, a perfect sledding hill and those woods. My cousin called it the “Glen” or the “Brook” When the weather was nice and the water was not up too high, we would venture out for hours. Sometimes just the cousins, sometimes the neighborhood kids would tag along. My cousin’s house had back stairs by the old pool that would lead into the “Glen” and that was our entry point. It was so beautiful and so peaceful. Of course we would be screaming and carrying on, hiking, turning over rocks, daring each other to climb trees that fell across the water, digging for salamanders, hunting for animals, and just having a great adventure.
How I miss those days of reckless abandon. It was so much fun. That is probably why, still to this day, I truly love taking long walks in the woods. It brings me back to the days I knew well and loved.