Last year, I went on a girls’ trip with my younger sister and some of my cousins. We played a game where we took turns answering deep, thought-provoking questions. The question was asked, “When did you realize that your family wasn’t like other families?” Immediately, my sister responded, “When I realized that most people don’t like to hang out with their cousins like I do.”
I have thought a lot about that statement since that day. I think about how blessed my life has been by the relationships I have with my family, especially my cousins. Maybe it does make us different from most families, but if your cousins were your best friends growing up, you know how special that bond is and you don’t think it’s strange at all. Like me, you also get excited about big family events and almost all your favorite childhood memories include a cousin or two.
If you’re like me, Sunday afternoons were most often spent at your grandmother’s house with the whole family.
You and your cousins would put on theatrical performances and play random games you invented on the spot. You spied on the grown-ups when they thought you weren’t listening and played hide-and-seek in the yard. Sleepovers were planned as often as you could talk your parents into them, and you always got in trouble for staying up way too late talking.
Vacations were taken together almost every year.
Everyone stayed in one house with the help of approximately a zillion air mattresses and sleeping bags, and nothing was more exciting than getting to share a room with your cousins. The trips almost always included matching outfits and/or shirts for the purpose of a large family photo. Even though you hated taking photos then, they are now priceless because of the memories they display.
Your older cousins were your heroes and the epitome of all things “cool” in your mind.
And, of course, you wanted to be just like them. They knew all sorts of things you didn’t. Their wisdom was sought for everything from fashion to boys. They helped you survive those awkward teenage years without (too many) fashion faux pas and they helped you disguise bad haircuts.
Now you’re all older and it’s weird to be counted with the “grown-ups” at family gatherings.
You may not all live in the same place anymore and it’s hard to all be together with so many schedules to coordinate, but when together, you laugh and swap stories of your shared childhood like no time has passed. The inside jokes live on and you FINALLY get to sit at the adult table.
Some of you are parents now and walking through that season of life together is such a blessing.
You lean on each other for advice and commiserate when things get tough. Your kids see your cousins as extra aunts and uncles, and you don’t bother correcting them because they are basically right. And nothing brings you more joy than to see your kids play together as they form special cousin bonds of their own.
Your heart has ached more than once this year when you think about how the pandemic has kept you all from being together.
Zoom calls and socially distanced gatherings aren’t the same. It’s been way too long since you gave each other a hug. You’ve had cousins get married and you couldn’t be there, or babies were born whom you haven’t gotten to meet yet. It hurts, but it’s not forever and when this is all over, you know that reunion is going to be so sweet.