Twenty-five years is a long time, if you think about it. It's a quarter of a century. That's how long it takes for the frontal lobe of your brain--the "decision making" part--to fully develop. From what I've learned from my dad, twenty-five years is a lengthy time for aging wine and it will probably cost more.

But, it doesn't feel like a long time. In fact, time doesn't seem to be slowing down at all lately, not for anybody. Experience itself could tell you this; one minute you're drawing in kindergarten, you blink and you're already graduating college. It's crazy how life works that way.

For my family, it's been easy to see just how fast time's hands are moving.

It began in June, 1995. My dad, along with his two middle siblings, got together and planned a beach trip to none other than Emerald Isle. They found a cottage, just big enough for everybody: 4607 Ocean Watch West. The once big and pink cottage, now seems much smaller, with the pink on the outside turning more and more white. But our love for it hasn't changed from the first year to the twenty-fifth. If anything, it's only grown.

Back in those days, there weren't iPhones or iPads to record things on. My family had the old, bulky video cameras. After recording, they would transfer the footage onto VCR tapes. If you don't remember those, you really didn't have a childhood. The sound the VCR made when you put it in, or the "eeeee errrrr eeeeeiiii" sound it made when you rewound the tape. Music to my ears. We have stacks of those tapes labeled "Emerald Isle Year ___" all throughout our home. The personal favorite from the first few years? My dad telling Marley to go pee in the ocean. She waddled out to the shoreline in her little, pink bathing suit and popped a squat right at the edge. It gets my dad every time we play it on the big screen.

They continued bringing my sister and Jennifer to Emerald Isle for the next few years. Then, in 1996, my Uncle Randy (my dad's middle brother) and Aunt Sherry, had my cousin Rachel. Followed by the youngins: Jennifer's brother Hunter, then Rachel's brother Andrew, and last--certainly not least--my parents had me.

If you've lost count, that's six of the eight cousins: Jennifer, Marley, Rachel, Hunter, Andrew, and myself.

As years went by, the three babies became rambunctious five and six-year-olds, the older girls just about to go into middle school. This meant that the beach could only entertain us for so long before "shark feeding time". Thankfully, Memaw, Mimi and Grandad (my mom's parents) knew exactly how to keep us going, and give the parents a break: Emerald Isle Little Theater. At the beginning of the week we would read over and assign parts for the play, then practice each night in the downstairs bedroom. When Thursday night came, the parents would go out to a nice dinner and return to watch our performance. One specifically I remember, The Barnyard, he played the Rooster. During one of the scenes, Hunter was supposed to "cock-a-doodle-doo", as most roosters do; however, what came out of his mouth was a completely butchered version of it. "Cockidy-cockidy-doodle-dee-doo". The parents erupted into contagious laughter, causing the play to end a little earlier than expected.

This next memory, you just might be a part of. If you've ever seen a group of kids, all wearing matching tie-dye shirts, walking along the beach and singing:

"Everywhere we go (everywhere we go),

people want to know (people want to know),

who we are (who we are),

so we tell them (so we tell them)

we are the cousins (we are the cousins)

the mighty, mighty cousins! (the mighty, mighty cousins!)"

Yes, folks. That annoying group of kids was us. Rachel, the unofficial leader of our group, would start us off and we'd echo each line. By the time we were old enough to realize just how annoying we really were, it was too late. We'd already scarred half the beach walking to the pier.

July of 2017, the youngins had graduated high school and the older girls had been out of college for a couple of years. Uncle Randy deemed that year, and each of the following, "throwback week" where the drinking age is 18. I still remember the picture that was taken, all of the cousins sitting around Memaw, cheersing our mixed drinks.

"Something just isn't right about the grandkids drinking with Memaw."

"What have we done?"Our parents said, laughing as we played Sequence all night long, getting more and more competitive with each hour that passed. We also loved to play Mexican Dominos, which my dad still calls "Chinese Checkers", card games and whatever else we can think of.

I could go on with more memories about the late night baseball games, when Uncle Randy lost his tooth after eating a nutty buddy, boogie boarding, Uncle Eddie cooking shrimp, the addition of the in-laws, and the water balloon slingshot. All of these memories have passed in the blink of an eye. Twenty-five years is a long time for making memories and we're a blessed family to be able to continue the tradition each year. We have lost and we have gained family, we have let traditions go and embrace new adventures, and we have praised God all along. The cottage at 4607 Ocean Watch West will hold memories and stories that the world may never know, but if the walls could talk, you'd be sitting in the leather recliner hearing twenty-five years worth of memories from the Pritchard-Games family. You'll be surprised just how fast time goes by.