We spent the weekend with my cousin and her family last weekend which is not exactly the most thrilling of information on the surface. The fact that I haven’t seen my cousin face to face in years makes it a little more interesting. Add to this the fact that on my mother’s side of the family the crazy runs a little deeper than average makes it almost exceptional. But we spent the weekend together because we are the (mostly) normal ones and being together was wonderful on many levels.
First, her mom and my mom threw us together a lot when we were kids. There are some pretty good family stories that are fun to pull out and reminisce and laugh over. I couldn’t do that with anyone but her. Also, we weathered all the crazy as children do, mostly oblivious, but when we were aware, we were compatriots, resistance fighters in our own family wars.
Second, along the same lines, I talk with friends who tell me their parents were tough, or their childhood was difficult. For the most part, I think to myself that it sounds like a walk in the park compared to how we grew up. Growing up in that clan was dysfunctional and it was widespread. It wasn’t just my mom or just my mom and her mom, it was all of them. I liken it to our own version of the TV show Dallas without all the great cars and clothes. Drama, deceit, divorce, all the D’s covered quite adequately, thank you very much. When I am with my cousin, she validates that my memories are not fanciful and melodramatic.
Third, being with her reminds me that all of that is in the past. We both have not only survived but thrived. Her husband is an incredibly kind and interesting person. Her children are sweet, intelligent, thoughtful girls who are growing up sheltered by a warm and caring woman who is nothing like either of our mothers. All of the crazy can be shaken off and put away. I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m not saying there wasn’t some genetic Russian roulette that gave us an advantage over siblings or other cousins, but I am saying being with her is a clear affirmation that I am okay.
Fourth, for all of that, being with her is a comfort. Our shared past creates a connection that can’t be broken. We haven’t spoken in years and while we see each other on Facebook and share comments and thoughts, the depth of any Facebook relationship is, in my opinion, shallow at best. But as soon as we sat down we began chatting and sharing as though all the intervening years never happened and we saw each other last week. Also, as weird as it sounds given all of the above, looking at her is a bit like seeing my mom. It felt really great to know we share something so elemental that we resemble each other. Having friends die has created a need for authentic connections in me and with her, years and half a country can’t break ours.
Finally, after we went our separate ways my youngest daughter told me she had a lot of fun with her cousins and she thought that we should do it again, maybe not every year, but at least every other. I love that. I love sharing my kids and helping them build connections with wonderful people. I imagine them maybe years from now meeting up and sharing their families and laughing about the time they went fishing and the huge turtle. Family can really be an amazing blessing.
Post Script: I drafted this 7/19 and continued to work on it throughout the week as is often my process. I sat down on 7/22 to finish and found while searching for cousin images that International Cousin Day is 7/24. What a happy coincidence!