I grew up surrounded by my cousins. I have a ton of them—I have 30+ just on one side. So there were always kids of every age around, and there was always someone to play with. Several of my aunts and uncles lived close, so we got together a lot. We weren’t just a part of each other’s lives during the holidays, we were a part of each other’s weekly and daily lives.

And let me tell you, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

We went to each other’s houses frequently, shared time at Grandma and Grandpa’s, some of us went to school together, there were birthdays, sleepovers, religious milestones, of course, holidays, sporting events, and putting corn, applesauce, and meat in the freezer. There was always something and we looked for any excuse to get together.

I always waited with great anticipation for those get-togethers and I know all my cousins did, too. The question was always, “Who is all going to be there?!” We always wanted to know if some of our favorite cousins were going to be there. We all kind of had our own little groups of the ones we would play with the most, usually the ones close to our own age. But when it came down to it, we would play with about anyone. We all loved each other and loved being together.

I think I can speak for most of my cousins when I say that our most favorite thing was playing hide-and-seek at Grandpa and Grandma’s farm after dark. Everyone played. The cement cow by the yard light was always base. We would have played that forever if we could. I still would to this day if I had the chance! When a cousin got hurt, we did everything in our power to keep him from going inside and speaking of it. We didn’t want our parents to ruin the fun and end it all.

We knew how to create fun and entertainment no matter where we were.

We played hard, laughed harder, got in trouble together, and we dreaded the time when our parents would tell us it was time to go home. A lifetime of memories was created in such a short time. The years went by way too fast and we grew up way too fast. The memories of our times together will stand the test of time. And at the time, we thought we were just having fun.

Growing up with cousins is growing up with friends for life. You shared a moment in time, you shared an upbringing, a childhood, you shared something special that you won’t ever share with anyone else. And you are forever tied to them because they are family. It is a deep-rooted bond that is truly hard to fully explain or give its full credit.

Life will toss you around, drag you through the mud, hold you up high and throw you down. But through it all, cousins will still have your back and be there if you need them. They will care when no one else does because they have a special place for you in their hearts.

I am so thankful for being able to grow up with my cousins. They were and still are some of my best friends.

I have several cousins I still talk to on a regular basis. We don’t get to see each other that often, but we still try to remain a part of each other’s lives. I cherish their friendship. They know me better than anybody else because they have known me since day one. I can be myself around them with my guard completely down. I can say about anything without fear of judgment and we can talk about anything. I tell them things I would never tell anyone else. They know the true me, flaws and all, and they love me anyway.

My cousins and I still get together but the times are fewer and farther between. Everyone still makes the effort, however, because we still want to get together and catch up. The funny thing with cousins is you can walk right up to them and start talking like you never missed a day.

We are quite a bit older now; most are married and most have kids running around. We have moved on to a new stage in life but the memories and bonds of our younger years still remain. And new memories are now being made with one another in this new season. But nothing beats the reminiscing and laughs when the topic shifts to, “Remember the time . . . ”

I will always remember the time I grew up with my best friends. And that is a time I will cherish forever.

“A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.” Marion C. Garretty

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Melinda Tietsort

Melinda is a married, mother of three girls. She works as a Physical Therapist Assistant, lives in rural Northwest Iowa and enjoys the farm life. She is a Christian and is trying to live the life God intends for her. She offers Christian encouragement and inspiration to others on her blog, "Pursuing a Christ-Centered Life." Follow it at: achristcenteredlife.blogspot.com