|The cousins watching a movie together before bedtime|
It's a place where the kids muddy their feet in a tiny stream by day and catch fireflies by night. As they chase each other under the old trees in the yard, a bunny hops off into the woods and a turkey waddles away up the hill, perhaps frightened away by the shouts and laughter.
The swings that anchor each end of the long porch are where my girls will most often find Grandmama. It's the perfect spot for reading books together, or just for talking the moments away.
After three years, the rooms that overflow with family members are familiar territory. The house welcomed a new guest this year, one making his first visit at ten-months-old. Two more wait in the wings, so next summer we'll be rearranging a few more pieces of bedroom furniture to make room for those extra pack 'n' plays.
Over the next eleven months, other families will sleep in those beds, gather in the family room, and sit in the wooden rocking chairs on the porch. But we know that our week will come around, that "our" house will greet us once again.
But it's not the house - nice as it is - that causes us to anticipate those days months in advance. It's the people we spend time with, those known to my kids as Granddaddy and Grandmama, uncles and aunts and cousins, making memories together. It's the annual traditions - like "grown-up kids" and actual kids riding go-carts and bumper boats - and new ones, like my brother and his wife cooking a big breakfast for us all, that cause us to look forward to next year.
Now we're home, the suitcases unpacked and the laundry put away. But our hearts have grown a little larger as we've felt the love of family, living and playing under the same roof for five days. It's those memories that will keep us close until the next time rolls around.