About six months ago, the plans for the third annual Cooksey Kid Reunion hit a major snag. That is the date, the third weekend in June, which we had come as close as we, the six Cooksey siblings can come to carving something in stone, was compromised. The youngest, our host, who has a lovely home on the Concho River in San Angelo, said he couldn’t make it. He’d be in Europe.

And no, before anyone asked, we couldn’t have the reunion at his house while he was out of the country. And thus began a back and forth, round and round series of emails that – honestly – while witty, funny and sarcastic, are a little taxing to deal with. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it all my life – as a tribe, we Cookseys need fewer chiefs, more Indians.

Finally, cooler heads prevailed. What’s the worst thing that could happen if we advanced the date – this year and this year only – to the last weekend in June? Well, probably nothing. We coped, reset our schedules (there’s a joke, real Cookseys don’t do schedules) and continued with the non-planning. Like six days out, we’re not sure where we’re getting the brisket for Saturday night.

Still, if you’d like to come, you’re invited.

Be warned though on how we operate. If you’re not a totally fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person, you’re probably not going to be a very good fit with the Cooksey family. We’ve noticed, having lost several in-laws who loved us but left us over the years, we’re a challenging group to love unconditionally and accept without question. All I can say is, if you do make it for the long-haul, you won’t regret it.

We love each other. Kindly, generally; fiercely if necessary.

There are a few rules. Here’s what you can’t do: Think we’re not funny, when we are, or, think we’re funny when we’re serious; tell us you’ve heard that story a thousand times, when we’ve heard it a million, were there when it happened and can’t wait to hear it again when we’re all sitting around the fire pit and can really embellish it; and you’d best not set out to improve things. (Huge downfall for several former in-laws.)

“Fixings” we don’t take kindly to include: what we eat and how we fix it; how some of us are late and some of us are early, and we know who’s who, and none of us are going to change; and finally, once we get there we’re going to stay a while and make the best of it. Don’t plan to leave the party early and think you won’t be talked about.

The truth is, like so many things in life we may seem a bit overwhelming at first glance, but we’re comfortable with where we are and who we are, and promise to make room for you, if you want to join us.

I don’t know how to define family, really. I’ve had one – a good one – technically since before I was born. Doting grandparents, loving and lovable parents, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. We have a history, and just as importantly, a now. Now I try to be for those in the younger generation what our ancestors were to me.

Last year, the CKR hosts, Wayland and Roxanne but up awnings in their backyard Friday afternoon. Then while we were out for dinner, Mother Nature danced through, flinging those awnings about beyond righting and repair. But Saturday morning, the brothers, nephew and cousins and male in-laws went to work down on the river bank to pick up fallen branches and cut and stack them into firewood.

My 31-year-old son told me that afternoon, “You know, when we were boys, if that would have happened, Granddad would have organized that clean-up, Uncle Terrell and Wayland, who were the age we are now, would have been showing us what to do and working. Now, we’re the men, and Jack-Wayne is the teen. That whole circle of life thing really made me thankful.”

Later, singing and telling the old stories, I watched my granddaughter and great niece, ages 5 and 9, swinging in the hammock just at the edge of the fire-lit circle, giggling and making their own memories. It’s one of those things I tucked away in a corner of my heart to pull out for review those days when life isn’t as bright and need to feel the love.

Because that’s what it’s all about.

 

Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at ccfulton2002@yahoo.com .