Growing up, I was especially close to my mom, her sister and daughter — my aunt and cousin. We spent so much time together. We used to tell people that my aunt was my mother and my mom was my cousin’s mother, as we look so much alike. And even though my aunt and cousin moved to Virginia in 1994, our bond has never wavered.

For as far back as I can remember, we’ve gotten together annually, usually just going back and forth to each other’s homes. About five years ago we took our “show on the road.” I took on the role as the planner, and we typically make it a girl’s trip.

Last year, instead of the usual girl’s trip, we opted for a large family reunion in Destin, Florida and had the best time. It really doesn’t matter where we go, all that matters is that we’re together. It always involves a lot of love, laughter and adventure.

Our matriarch — my grandmother — died in 2004 at the very young age of 59. She was one of the best people I have ever known. She had a very hard life, but you would never know it after meeting her and hearing her infectious laugh. She believed in family more than anything else, and I know that she watches over us with that huge smile as we continue to make memories together.

My cousin and I are only five years apart. And while I don’t have a sister, she has always felt like one to me.

We both took different routes in life, but we have both been lucky with success in our personal and professional lives, and we celebrate each other every chance we get.

My mom and aunt are inseparably close. They came from a family of six, with two girls and two boys. After losing their father at ages 7 and 3, they banded together. My grandmother had to work all day and night to support her family, leaving my mom to take on the leadership role at an unbelievably young age. Most of my cherished childhood memories involved my mom and aunt, and luckily they inherited their mother’s laugh. It always warms my heart when I hear it.

Although I don’t have a sister or daughter of my own, I’m hoping that my sons continue the traditions we’ve created. We spend a tremendous amount of time with our family, and we do so because we want to. We travel together, the kids play sports and do 4-H together. We have created a bond and foundation that I pray they continue once they’re grown and have families of their own.

It doesn’t matter how near or far away we are, we are always there for each other and come together in times of celebration and need.

I’m sure that we annoy most people when we’re together, and we try to apologize in advance. But continuing this tradition has always been a priority for us and always will be.

We keep our grandmother’s memory alive every time we’re together, and that’s all she would’ve ever wanted.

Elizabeth Engelhardt is the publisher for the Seguin Gazette.

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