( Recent events have reminded me how important family is. I am also reminded of how special extended family can be, cousins especially. One of my second cousins, Nyna Giles, is writing a memoir about her mother*, my first cousin Carolyn, and another second cousin, Kacy Ferrar, recently posted the picture above on Facebook. Both of these have taken me back to my own memories of my cousins and Grandma’s house. I dedicate this to all of them.)
My mother grew up with nine brothers and sisters. As a result of that reality my brother and I inherited 18 first cousins on the maternal side.
The best part of that is we were born with friends. Every holiday or special occasion we would pile into grandma’s dining room with us cousins sometimes overflowing into the kitchen. None of us jitterbugs ever minded being set up at the long table covered with oil cloth because it meant we were out from under our parents noses.
Pigtails could be pulled, unwanted food easily gotten rid of by a quick shove onto someone else’s plate and kicks under the table couldn’t be reprimanded.
All of us flying in and out around that farm house like wild honey bees during those gatherings, the joy we all felt as children, as cousins, of just being, escaped us. We thought it would last forever. Of course, it didn’t.
As I have written about so often, soon after the war prosperity was beginning to bloom and most of my aunts and uncles moved to various parts of the state and country where they could find work. Thus the fracturing of the close knit family began and my loving ties to my cousins unraveled.
My mother, though, remained very close to her four sisters and brother who lived nearby. They were the threads that kept us cousins connected as we grew up and went our own way as adults, leaving behind fading memories of Grandma’s kitchen and a life that would never again be. We were never to be together again in that utopian state. Nor were we to know then that the only gatherings later on where some of us could reacquaint ourselves would be when we were grieving the loss of one of our own.
Christmas cards would be exchanged by a few of us throughout the years, but basically I would say most of us lost touch for many years. Everyone seemed busy with their own lives, their own children in their own dining rooms and kitchens during the years. Looking back, I realize it was such a loss of time for all of us.
Perhaps the longest relationship as a young adult for me would’ve been with my older cousin Carolyn in New York. Carolyn was like me more than any of my other cousins. Most of them were just happy to get married, have children and work at what they liked. I was different. I had been born with big dreams. I couldn’t help it. It just was. Dreams of something beyond my existence in the small industrial town where I lived.
My cousin Carolyn, when I was still young, was able to fly away and realize her dreams. She was our family’s shining star. She was the one who had made it. It was Carolyn. She was the hand that was there to pull me out and inspire me to not be afraid of wanting more. Unfortunately, as the cruelty of life sometimes reveals itself, throughout the years, circumstantially, no one was there with an understanding hand for her.
I guess the point of all this retrospective and what inspired this blog is that through Facebook I have been able to connect with so many members of my extended family that throughout the years I have lost. My cousins, second cousins, maternal cousin’s, fraternal cousins are back. We’re not sitting in the kitchen at Grandma’s table in Ohio, but we are connected and we are back as an extended family. For that I am most grateful. Thank you Facebook.
Copyright© Sandra Hart 2016. All Rights Reserved
* The Bridesmaid’s Daughter, Nyna Giles (coming 2017/18)