North Dakota

The bad thing about snuggling with small kids is that they are always jabbing and bumping you in places you don’t want to be jabbed and bumped. Like your boobs. It was 5:45 this morning when both of my tired girls were fighting for a spot in my lap. So while one was aggravatingly close to twiddling her fingers in my chestal area, the other was leaning her cheek against my arm. But as she slowly moved her head side to side to adjust herself like a cat or dog making two laps in a circle before it finally sits, I could feel jaw tendons and bones slowly rubbing against my upper arm. That’s just gross.

But the reason we were at the airport was because my girls and I took our first big mommy/daughters trip which (via two airplanes and a car ride) landed us in Cogswell, North Dakota to visit cousins on the farm.

I use the term cousins loosely. My dad’s cousins live there who we still refer to as Cousin Paul, Cousin Phyliss, etc. to my kids. However, my mom has a cousin named Sheila whom my brother, sister, and I have always called Aunt Sheila. And my real first cousin has two kids now and we’ve debated whether I’m their Aunt Jody or cousin Jody. Tomato, tomato. (That last one was a British accent, see?)

So how did the trip go? It was fantastic. We were at our first stop at one of “Poppy’s cousin’s” house when it dawned on me that I really felt like family. Cousin Diana said, “of course! Because you are family!” That made me feel even more warm and fuzzy. The only other time I had visited (19 years ago) I was with my grandma Jack-Jack who integrated me into the family tree. Jack-Jack and I had met up with her sister Noreen in Minneapolis (with no roller suitcase in sight. I’m still not sure how I carried 3 suitcases to our rented car.) So Great Aunt Noreen and Jack-Jack were visiting their place of birth, their brother and sister-in-law, and their nephews and nieces and grand-nephews and grand nieces. Is that a word? Well it seems pretty easy to understand. Which is why we also stuck to the term cousin. Because second cousin once removed makes people stare blankly and it makes my head hurt. And as a college student, I was just taking it all in and trying to finally put faces to the names I had heard sprinkled in conversation over my two decades.

While sniffing the wafting aroma of take and bake pizza (it came from Fargo, over an hour away, FYI,) and looking out the window at the deer that Huntsman Jerry was eyeing come Deer Season, I realized I didn’t even need my grandma Jack-Jack there with me to feel comfortable with my far-away family.

They say southerners are known for hospitality, but I tell you what, midwesteners must be neck-in-neck with us! We were fed, chauffeured, catered to, slept great, ate homemade meatballs, cookies, cold brewed coffee, and sloppy Joe’s, and my kids were entertained the whole time. By all the cousins: Big, Medium, and third (?!) cousins their own size and age.

I’ll have to ask the girls what their favorite parts were, but I already know Ellie will say, “everything!” Sammy might say the dog Rosie was her favorite part, but I know she had a great time each day because she was already crying as we pulled away from the farm. As for me, I enjoyed visiting; riding on gravel roads; getting ancestor’s names and dates recorded; seeing a little bit of Jack-Jack in many of the faces, voices, and intonation; stepping into the corn bin (did you know they don’t really use silos anymore?) having a “champagne tour” of the fields; and discovering the feeling that we are indeed family and felt as much at home there as we do here in Georgia.

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