The river was too high — not something you’ll probably hear me say again. And not something I ever pay much attention to. But something that matters a lot when you drive 10 hours to spend three days with your family (seven cousins and their 12 kids and our moms and dads) on the Mulberry River for what we’ve lately deemed Cousinpalooza.

I woke each day to the sounds of squealing children and smell of fresh coffee and sausage and the familiar shuffle of feet in slippers and laughter of my mother and aunts carrying on four conversations at once (a feat considering there’s only three of them).

We were disappointed we couldn’t do the river thing. But we did relax on rope swings on the front lawn of the lodge, and we watched my brother-in-law filet fish caught in the pond a short walk down the road (and by we I mean the other kids … we Bedgoods like our fish without eyeballs and heads and scales).

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We cruised around the property on my sister’s rhino (with me holding Wilder in a death grip wondering if we were those people who’d let their kid do something he was way too young for and what if it flipped just spontaneously and/or wondering if I’m totally paranoid).

My aunt brought water balloons, and we found a spare sprinkler head in my cousin’s car. We didn’t need much else.

The river may have been too high, but it’s not really what mattered. What mattered is that Wilder got to spend a few days with people who will always know and love him.

I hope always really know him.

Know him the way my aunts and uncles and cousins know me — no matter how far I go and what I do, they know me in a way no one else does. The way my Uncle Jeff says MandaJean all in one word. How my cousins know what I looked like with cloud bangs and no bangs, the mistakes I made in college and what my frayed nerves felt like on my wedding day. They are past, present and future (if we make the effort). It’s that whole roots and wings thing.

I think history matters — personal perhaps most of all. I hear people say (too often if you ask me) that family is what you make it. It is.

But I think people too often dismiss that family into which we’re born. I believe God puts us each in a place and family for a time such as this. Save for those dealing with some truly toxic/abusive kind of situation, family teaches us much about the dynamics of groups, of dealing rather than running. It’s not always the easiest thing to keep the ties strong. After my Grandma Wanda and Granddad Virgil died we see each other less but are all determined to not drift too far no matter how hard it is to make time.

It’s often easier to stay in your nest here at home with people in the same place in their life with the same views. People you can walk away from if it gets uncomfortable or tough or awkward. Family (Uncle Eddie and all) can be those first lessons in how to deal and flourish in an environment where people don’t always agree but respect each other enough to stick around. People who, even when the river is too high, still show up.

IND Monthly Style Editor Amanda Bedgood and her husband, Mike (who will contribute to this column), have a 22-month-old son, Wilder.

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