This is a group of my cousins and me, snatched from out of the yard one Christmas afternoon, long enough to snap this picture. All of us, with the exception of my sister Phyllis, seated holding the squalling baby, my sister Connie, and my cousin Paula being held out by my Aunt Ola Bea, had been out playing football. There were about forty of us first cousins ranging up to about age seventeen, my mother and aunts being an extremely fertile bunch. We could always gather enough for two teams, especially counting any other kids foolish enough to straggle by and join the melee. There were always plenty of black eyes and busted lips before the day was over. Only sissies went crying to Mama. The more concerned mothers tried to keep their toddlers out of the mix in the interest of survival.
Most of us were horrible, with the exception of Phyllis, who was universally admired by all the adults as a “good girl.” What they didn’t know was, she volunteered to rock babies, help in the kitchen, and pretending to read so she could catch all the good gossip, which was available in abundance in our hormone-ridden family. There was always a new story to be whispered.
Though you’d never guess it by looking at me, Mother had made me dress up for Christmas. I’m the grinning girl in the back left wearing the light colored blouse and dark skirt. By the time this picture was made, all the buttons were gone off the blouse and the hem ripped out of the back of the skirt, an unfortunate result of a couple of hours of football. I never said I’d wanted to dress up.
When it was our turn to host family holidays, we hurriedly locked up our Christmas toys and goodies before the hoard of wild cousins arrived. If they were smart, they did the same thing. Sorry cousins, if that’s big news! Otherwise, there would have been nothing left. As soon as Christmas dinner was over, we were kicked outdoors to play….to the barn if the weather was bad! Let the animals look out for themselves!