In early January this year my entire mom's side of the family headed south to the Dominican Republic for some much needed family time and relief from the harsh Ohio winter (no joke - my parents slid off the road into a ravine on the way to the airport and the police were kind enough to give them a lift so they wouldn't miss their plane).
Despite one of my mom's sisters living in Alaska and raising her family there, we've always been a close family. I think most of that was due to my Grandme who always made sure we got together at least once a year at her home in Hilton Head. All of us cousins spent countless hours playing games (spoons!) in Grandme's living room, staying up late listening to Grandme tell stories, sneaking out onto the golf course at night and walking Dolphin Head beach looking for shells. Grandme was all about family and I am so grateful that she helped encourage our reunions.
Sadly, we lost Grandme a couple of years ago, but our love for family has not wained. My mom and her sisters took a trip last year to Hilton Head to spread Grandme's ashes in the place she loved most. After spending a few days there, they took a girls trip to Punta Cana which is where the idea for a huge family trip was born. It had been several years since we had done our last extended family vacation. In 2006, Grandme took all of us to Hawaii and I can easily say that was one of the best trips of my life. It was bittersweet planning this trip without her and it's so interesting to see how things have changed in such a short amount of time. In 2006 when we were in Hawaii, none of my cousins had any children and only one of them was married. Now, many of them are married and have several children so the dynamic of this trip was different, but still so good.
I was able to sneak in family sessions with both my aunts' families and of course I was snapping pictures pretty much the entire time we were there but come onnnn, it's too hard not to when there is this much goodness happening around you. We had the best time soaking up the sun and the champagne (ohhhh, the champagne!). We layed in hammocks and cabanas, bobbed in the waves and splashed in pools. We had dance parties and sing-a-longs, cookouts and long talks. It was really hard to say goodbye to such a special time (read: I was a sobbing mess on the way to the airport). One of my favorite things about this trip was watching my cousins' children become friends just like we did so many years ago. It made me feel old (waaaah!) but also so so happy.