Growing up without siblings was fun and all, but sometimes all I wanted was to be around family who wasn't 20 years older than me. My cousins on my mom's side moved to Durham (where I lived) when I was 8 so for most of my life I spent my weekends with them since they were right down the street. I see them all the time, we have an occasional groupchat, we call each other out on social media and have the best holiday traditions.

The Haunted Mansion

My cousins and I were weird. Our favorite movie of all time was "The Haunted Mansion" (2003) starring Eddie Murphy. When we were really little, we would watch the movie 2-3 times a day and not just in October - more like the middle of July at the beach. We now make fun of our childhood obbessiveness and we attempt to watch the movie only when the season is appropriate.

Halloween

On Halloween, we used to go to our grandmother's house and then walk around the block getting candy from the homes on her street. There was this one house in particular at the top of her street that we visited each year because they gave out full sized candy and a toy or stuffed animal. Afterwards we would sit on her living room floor count all of our candy and see who got the most. If you got whoppers then you won the jackpot.

Walmart

Our grandpa is one interesting guy. He had his own traditions with us that we still cherish. He liked to pick the four of us up on Sundays and take us to the Hillsborough Walmart so we could pick out 2 boxes of candy, a toy and then get some McDonalds. The American Dream. He had some rules though- we couldn't eat our candy or open our toy until we got home or else serious consequences. Afterwards we would take our scraps and go to his house in the Roxboro Country. It was this big old white house that had all the furniture removed out of it. He kept his dogs in the big fenced in backyard and would feed them our left over McDonalds while we explored the house. My cousin Leigha and I particularly liked this one room on the top floor that had an open window and ladybugs flew in and covered all of the walls.

The Magnolia Trees and the Big Yard

Our grandma's house had a great backyard. It was covered with trees and big rocks, stepping stones, massive gardens, and magnolia trees. The 2 magnolia trees were right outside her fence but still on her lawn. The oldest cousin claimed the farther larger magnolia tree while my cousin Will and I claimed the other. We wanted to keep our youngest cousin, Leigha, out of there, so we drew a keypad and pretended that if you didn't know the password you would be electricuted. Our grandma also had a huge front yard. She had these large rocks and collection of trees that we made into a fort, and this little stump with a hole in the middle where we made berry soup by crushing the red berries off of her nearby bushes inside. We had a little pipe that if pressed down, water would come rushing out. It fascinated us. Easter egg hunts in April at her house were epic to say the least.

Black Friday

I am about 3 years older than my cousin Leigha. When we were young, we didn't get along. I thought she copied me so I got mad and forced her to do things, and she whined. But once we were old enough, we started to appreciate the relationship we had together and our serious love of Christmas. In 2012 we started going with our grandfather to the mall at 5:00 am so we could shop. Then in 2016 we started going on our own. Black Friday was our favorite post-thanksgiving tradition where we got chick fil a breakfast and blasted Christmas music in the car.

The United States

Our grandpa loved to challenge our geography knowledge. He would challenge us to name all of the United States or put the States puzzle together without looking down at the cover page for a prize of $50. It was a fun game to prove intelligence over one another.

Forts

The small space in my grandma's living room between the wall and the laziboys our grandparents sat in was just right enough that we could place a blanket overtop the chairs and stack pillows on top of one another and create a fort that we would hide in. Perfect getaway.

The Bee Movie

Before Bee Movie memes, there was the Hofmann and Colgan cousins watching the Bee Movie to absolute annoyance. We watched it every time we got into the car. It still has no superiority over the Haunted Mansion though.

DPAC

We are incredibly lucky to have get to have gone to the DPAC as much as we did. DPAC meaning the Durham Performing Arts Center. Our grandma got the season ticket pass which meant she took us out to see every show possible. We'd go to dinner and then get food again when we got there. We've seen so many epic broadway shows there and we are grateful.

Christmas

These are my favorite traditions.

Every christmas eve, we would get together at our grandmas house and eat homemade food and watch the santa tracker on the computer. Then one year, we found this old polar express game. We dusted it off and started playing. The game has the most fun and ridiculous rules ever and it never fails to make me laugh. It's also completely rigged because I still haven't won but this year that will change.

Then on Christmas morning, my uncle and my cousins dad, would take us to the grocery store he managed and he would let us run around, play hide and seek, drive the motor carts, etc.

For a long time, we would also go and see the Christmas Carol by Ira David Wood at Raleigh Memorial in December but due to the cousins going off to college and having different lives it was hard to plan a good date.

All in All, my Cousins Rock:

We love to make fun of the weird things we used to do, and the weird things we still do. Like the fact that Jake is a random fact know it all and fits the oldest role perfectly, and that I (the next oldest) tend to be more bossy one because I am an only child, and that Will is a middle child theater kid and that Leigha the youngest is a OCD Christmas obbessed girl who remembers the most random things. Together we get along super well and I'm so thankful for them filling in the sibling hole that I "missed out" on.

About the picture:

For our grandma's birthday last year we decided to recreate this picture from 2005. From left to right: Will, Mckenna (Me), Gramzy and on her lap: Leigha, and then Jake. We are so sentimental, she loved it.