To watch these four, sitting in an empty baby pool eating ring pops on a lazy afternoon seemed to be a pipe dream only a few short months ago. As many of you know by now, two of the children were removed to foster care and the potential for them to ever have this bond was greatly diminished. However, this is not the focus of this discussion. Instead, I want to focus on how amazing it is that the instant they were returned, when the grownups were still stressing as to how to make the transition comfortable for the children, the four cousins immediately knew how important they were to one another. There was no coaching or explaining. We did not have to introduce them. We did not have to stand over them. They were and had always been cousins and no amount of distance or difficulties could break this natural bond, this natural friendship, this natural and automatic love for one another.
I think back on my own childhood and my slew of cousins that lived both near and far. I was so very blessed to have a few of them very close and always available for whatever stunt I had decided to pull (maybe they were not so lucky). Other cousins were not as available but always up to swap stories when family functions would bring us all together and believe me, my family could throw some family functions. From Sunday dinners (alternating between grandmothers) to family vacations where more of us squeezed into a single hotel room than the fire marshall could have counted but “why have to move rooms to talk?” We would make “pallets” on the floor with the extra blankets and giggle all night long.
On school vacations, I would head off to my grandmother’s house in the mountains and could look forward to long days on the big rock where my cousins and I would bellow out whatever new trendy song one of us was prepared to teach to the others. There was never a weird sense of uncertainty as we approached one another regardless of how long it had been since we had talked. We did not have social media to stay up to date on each other’s lives so we actually sat down and talked and listened to one another. Hell, many of my cousins did not have home phones that I could call to chat with when a major event occurred. Nope, we had to wait and tell our tales on the big rock. And we did. Boy, could we ever tell some tales? The best ones were the ones that we told to keep each other out of trouble. Yeah, we may have rarely seen one another but cousins were always the best alibis!
The bond between cousins does not change. It was my cousin, Amanda, who helped me with my children when they were young. It was my cousin, Cindy, who took me into her home with my three children following my divorce. Neither of them minded how long it had been since we had talked, it was just natural. It was my cousin, Becky, who sat with me when Scott passed away and listened about the CPS case long into the night along with her sister, Elizabeth’s daughter who had attended on behalf of her mother. There are so many other stories and so many other cousins. My life has been shaped and saved by them more times than I could ever express.
Of course, this is a rarity these days. I know my own children did not have that experience due to divorce and relocation. I know that my grandchildren almost lost that experience due to the conditions of the CPS case. It makes me wonder, what happens to these kids when they become adults and look for a familiar face to share a tale with on the big rock? Why do we no longer huddle up in a hotel room with our family and giggle all night? Why do we forget the importance of extended family and cousins simply because the immediate family seems to be the only recognized unit?
Why have we lost the art of cousinry?