Keeping up appearances

DHH owns the northern family house with a bunch of family. Every few years the clan gathers to celebrate each other and the grandparents who built the place back in 1930.

DHH’s maternal grandparents had five children, and when the seniors moved out four out of the five owned the house together for more than 30 years. Today only one of the four goes there on a regular basis, and most of the shareholders and stakeholders are found amongst Generation Three. One of them is DHH, who took over his mother’s part some 10 years ago.

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When DHH grew up the island house was the epicentre of most of the family activity. The seven grandchildren mostly arrived in the late 50ties and early 1960ties, and one way or another five families were able to fit into the three extra bedrooms all at the same time. There was always space for the extra bed in the outhouse or in the barn, and there was always a tent or three put up in the yard. The Grandfather would moan and groan when he was disturbed during his afternoon nap and The Grandmother would shout at unruly kids who came in late for dinner, but still we like to think they were happy having company. For city kids it was heaven on earth wading the beach ambushing crabs, digging for snails or taking the rowing boat fishing. The sun never sets in summer, and school was a million miles away.

We have the same gatherings still, but not every summer. We had one in 2014, and now again in 2017. The grandchildren are a bit bigger, and not so far away from becoming grandparents themselves. Generation four has quite an age span, some of them have been regulars at these parties for a couple of decades while others are barely old enough to take up the habit of chasing crabs. Generation Three walk the floors and the fields feeling like elderly statesmen, hoping that some of the younger ones will love the place like we do and be willing to spend the time (not mentioning the money) it takes to keep it in good shape for another 30-40 years.

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Generations 1 and 2 on the front door stairs in 1969. The grandparents are long gone, and only two of their five children are still alive.

We are not quite top dogs though, because there are still a few from Generation Two in circulation. At this years party however, DHH’s father was the only one present. He came there as a future son-in-law in 1950, and he still goes there as often as he can.

As the cousins go, the group consists of The Tall Cousin (not very far from two metres) The Polite Cousin (one of the few people in the family who thinks before he talks) The Loud Cousin (a used car salesman, so there is nothing else to be expected) The Redhead Cousin (there used to be two girls in the group, but now she is the only one left) and The Baby Cousin (who is 44 by now, but he will always be the Baby for as long as any of the others are still alive).

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The only picture of all the seven cousins together was taken in 1977. Standing (from left) The Tall Cousin, The Loud Cousin, The Redhead Cousin (she is dyeing her hair these days, but she cannot fool us), The Blond Cousin (sadly no longer with us) and DHH far right. Sitting at the front, The Polite Cousin and The Baby Cousin.

The meetings have some rituals, many of them in the shape of taking pictures. There are some eternal motives that date back decades. There has to be some in front of the kitchen window, there has to be a group shot on the front door steps and most importantly, there has to be one taken with The Baby Cousin in a plastic bucket. Family traditions have to be kept up. Here, you can see some of them.

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