Sometimes life gets busy, crazy, and chaotic. Normal people seek out friends to help them through a crisis; book people seek out old favorite books to help provide a bit of normalcy or escape. For me, old favorites often are children’s books. They hearken back to a time when I didn’t have teenagers that needed to be driven everywhere, when chicken nuggets were the perfect meal, and days could be spent curled up with the children reading books. Yea, I know, I am idolizing the past, but sometimes everyone needs a bit of fantasy escape. So, grab a pillow, a blanket, and your favorite children book, snuggle with your children . . . or your cat . . . and curl up and cuddle.
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
The book starts with “It was the summer of the year when the relatives came” and continues to tell the story of the relatives who drive up from Virginia, with their cooler full of crackers, bologna sandwiches, and soda pop. As they drive through the mountains and over the dusty roads, their minds are on their grapes back home and on us, waiting for them. When they arrive, there is hugging and kissing and visiting and crying and catching up. The relatives stayed for weeks and weeks and helped with the garden and broken things around the house and other things that need to be done. There is sadness when the relatives leave but even through we are missing them, there are dreams of next summer.
This book always chokes me up a bit but I have to smile. The simple drawings and beautiful prose vividly recreate that feeling when special people return to our lives. My favorite part is the description as to how you have to pass through at least four different hugs to get from the kitchen to the front room. The simple story-line highlights all the wonderful and strange feelings when there are guests in the house; the sound of different snoring, the smell of larger amounts of food being served (you know that smell), the feel of the air when those dear to you are together.
I am sure everyone has a memory of a time when relatives came. My greatest is traveling to Wisconsin when I was child to visit my cousins for Thanksgiving. We all stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house; there were mounds of food, multi-day Monopoly Games, sleeping bags on the floor, and hours of embarrassing stories. Although we got together but a few times a year, it always picked up with no awkwardness – even through the teenage years – as if we hadn’t been apart. What makes this memory even more special is that it is now repeated with my children, my sister’s children, and my cousins’ children.
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, this is a great book to pick up and share with your family and friends. A timeless classic of what makes our loved ones special, quirky, annoying, and perfect. The Relatives are Coming again – there is more laughter, noise, and joy.