By Sandy Thompson

Submitted photo

I adore spending time with relatives from both my mom’s and dad’s sides of the family. I love hearing the family history or what it was like in the “old days.” My childhood memories are filled with family celebrations — holidays, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, family reunions, and those times we gathered to say goodbye to someone dear to us.

Of all those memories, I do have a few favorites; for example, riding a little red bus from Mandan to Hazen to stay with my maternal grandparents, where I was treated to wonderful German food. In the summertime, my grandparents would fill up big silver tubs with water from the hose and by afternoon, I would have my own personal swimming pool!

Another favorite: the time we celebrated Thanksgiving at our aunt and uncle’s farm south of Mandan. While the adults were sitting around visiting, we kids (feeling bored) decided to make our own fun by sliding across a tile floor in our stocking feet. (This was way before social media and fancy tech devices.) We slid and slid, working up a sweat and laughing. We were having so much fun — until one of our cousins slid too fast and too hard, falling and breaking her glasses. We were terrified! But, my cousins and I would continue to make many more memories together. 

Some of the best happened during cousin sleepovers at our aunt and uncle’s house before they had children of their own.There were four of us girl cousins who would regularly be invited to stay at their house overnight (although I’m not sure whatever possessed them to willingly invite four nieces to spend the night!). Our aunt made our favorite foods. We laughed together and  talking in bed until we all fell asleep. We were all sad to go home the next day; the time spent together seemed to fly by.

And, it has. We’re all adults now, and while we no longer have sleepovers, we do make a point to see each other — every week. We call it “Sister’s Night.” None of them is actually my sister but my two aunts (sisters) and three daughters of one aunt (my “sleepover cousins”) welcome me as if I am. Each week one of us picks the restaurant where we will meet, and we talk about the silly things that have happened since we last saw each other, laugh, share coupons and recipes, laugh, make silly snapchats, (did I mention the laughing?) and then, we sometimes make up reasons to get the whole family together for a future potluck — we’re coming up on our third annual “We Hate Winter” party in February 2020. We also support each other through tough situations — employment, relationships, difficult decisions, the loss of pets, deaths of loved ones, or personal health issues. 

While the original intent of this weekly get-together was to simply go out to eat, it has been so much more than that. For me, it has literally been a safe place to fall. A place and time when I know that, whatever I need, I will find it through the strength, wisdom, listening ears, and generous spirits of these women. I am so lucky to call these women “family,” and spending time with them costs much less than therapy or medication! 

Sandy Thompson (pictured upper left) is a licensed addiction counselor in North Dakota, Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery trained family recovery coach, and owner of Path to Pono, specializing in business consulting and family recovery coaching. She has a passion for helping others, dreams of one day living in a tropical climate, and loves all German food.