Growing up, like every other kid on my block, I spent months looking forward to summer. Not just because it meant I was done with homework or because I could stay up as late as I wanted reading. No, I loved summer because that’s when my relatives came to visit. I come from a rather large extended family and summer was the one time of year we were all able to get together in one place. That annual family reunion – the hugs and kisses from aunts and uncles, the games with cousins — was always the highlight of my childhood summers.
Like the relatives in Cynthia Rylant’s picture book, my relatives came from Virginia, and while they didn’t drive a rainbow-colored car, they did have a van that was packed full of people. Their arrival meant big meals with lots of laughter, sleepovers on the floor of my aunt’s house or in tents out in her backyard, and hours spent around a campfire, making s’mores and singing along with my uncle as he played his guitar.
Even now, as an adult, I still look forward to summer for the very same reason. My cousins and I are older (some of us are even aunts and uncles now), but the love and laughter remains. At the end of summer, it is still sad to have to say goodbye, but like Rylant’s narrator, I know it’s okay because next summer the relatives will return.