Our cousins, our elves

My cousins Liz and Dorothy*, Liz’s husband Buddy, and their Shih Tzu Bella came all the way from Maine and New Hampshire, in December, to exhaust themselves decorating our house for Christmas. I helped, of course, but mostly I just let the elves have at it. 

When the Good Lord was doling out talents, Dorothy and Liz got the crafty, decorating gene. I definitely did not, and my insecurity in that arena is well known. In other words, I whine about it. \ Just before Thanksgiving, Liz and Dorothy, evidently tired of the whining, announced their intent to take over our holiday decorating. And just a few hours after a long drive and very little sleep, they were on the march. They came bearing all sorts of sweet little gifts, too, including the edible kind.

Our long weekend was a frenzy of activity. Hubby and Buddy put up the tree and hung out together, with Buddy helping, as he always graciously does, with a few fix-it chores around the house. Buddy and Hubby get along like Forrest Gump’s peas and carrots. They instinctively signal each other when it’s time to go away and leave us alone (said affectionately, of course).

My job, as I saw it, was to feed everyone, partake in the good cheer, and haul the Christmas stuff up from the basement. Dorothy turned on the music and stuck charcoal masques on our faces to “rejuvenate” us. Liz took over the outside, patiently stringing the lights and doing battle to secure the gorgeous fresh wreath Dorothy had brought. Daughter Emily joined us Saturday to decorate the tree. Every minute was as full of raucous laughter as it was of activity.


When Hubby and I suggested a night trip to Hershey—alleged to be the “sweetest place on earth”— to see the lights, Dorothy’s eyes got as big as Whoopie Pies (which, by the way, belong to MAINE, not Pennsylvania). We started with a whirl through Chocolate World, then got on the Holly Jolly Trolley ride. Liz’s clever commentary kept the lot of us laughing and threw the singing tour guide and her various “surprise guests” off script. Afterward, the requisite candy purchases, Dorothy’s treated us to the 4D mystery movie. After a stroll down glittering Christmas Candylane,  a glimpse of the elegant Hotel Hershey, and a ride through the Sweet Lights display, we were sufficiently Hershey Park Happy to call it a night. 



Growing up an only child in a big, extended Italian family, my Pennsylvania cousins provided my primary social context for much of my life. But the cousins up north I saw only on occasional summer visits. Separated by 400+ miles for most of our lives, we couldn’t really get to know, much less love, each other. That pleasure came much later in life, and with it has also come ongoing revelations of how much commonality lies deep within our shared DNA.

Except for that crafty, decorating gene, of course.

*Dorothy’s husband Frank, who is the king of backyard animal life movies, couldn’t join us this time. We’ll make him “Hershey Park Happy” next year.

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