Monday, December 14, 2009


My cousin found me on Facebook! Funny, it hadn't yet occurred to me to look for her there, though I've Googled her now and again in the, oh, hundred years or so since I've seen her. Yay, Facebook!

Here's what I remember about her:

1. The photo. It's a treasure in my family, this photo, iconic of our relationship at the time. I know I have a copy somewhere, but it's after midnight, and I don't know where to begin to look. I bet Aerie'd know, if she were awake. It shows Cuz and me at two years old, her with the flaming red hair, me with round belly and cheeks, sharing a can of Coke in a field of green grass. My mother used to joke that we could sell that photo to Coca Cola if only the label had been turned a little more directly toward the camera.

2. That house. The house of my cousins, not far from the home into which I was born, was the coolest place on the entire planet. As I recall, though the memory of a child before he was five is less than reliable, they had a sauna in the basement. They had an electric organ. They had cable (we watched Breaking Away again and again!) and a home computer (an Apple II! With Hunt the Wumpus and Lemonade Stand!) before people had cable and personal computers. They even had that most exotic of appliances: the trash compactor. They had the big back yard in which we celebrated the 4th of July, with sparklers. My uncle was rebuilding a Fiat from the ground up, and he drove like a lunatic. As I recall.

3. Cuz and I, getting busted by my flustered aunt, in that hazy time in my memory when I was 5-ish or before, in bed together, exploring the differences in our parts when we were supposed to be napping. I can't recall now whether she was amazed that I had what she did not, or if I was amazed that she did not have what I did. But one, or both of us, was astounded.

4. The lake vacation, some handful of years after we moved a couple of states away, when the cousins all came together for a couple of weeks, and Cuz and I played smurfs, or maybe trolls, and the cousins all made fun of our new Texas accents and repeatedly sang "Put Another Log on the Fahr" at us, and we fished, mostly unsuccessfully.

5. The splintering of that family of cousins through what seemed like a long string of bizarre and unjust tragedies, beginning with the too-young death by cancer of my well-loved aunt, whom I called "Aunt Piggy" because it was almost her name, and I was young and confused, and because she gave me some sort of fabric pig book when I was two and was hospitalized with pneumonia, that I still had years later. The pig book, that is, and not the pneumonia.

I think the loss of that extended family, first by our moving away when I was five, right at the early edge of my current memory, and then by what seemed from a distance to be the dissolution of the cousins' family, has shaped how I feel about familial connections now. I have pined, now and then through my life, for that connection with the cousin who was only a few months younger than I, who was in some ways, for a little while there, almost like a sister. I want Thumper to have and know and love his cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. I want him to grow up with them, to still be playing with them long after he's five, to never feel like he had and then lost them.

So. Anyway. I'm glad to hear from her again.


Purelight said...

What great memories you have! But you forgot one thing about their house--they had a microwave oven back when such a thing was almost science fiction. I was fascinated.

I think we are all enjoying this unexpected and welcome expansion of family. I've always appreciated your devotion to extended family, and here you have so poignantly described its roots. Thank you for writing it down, son.

I, Rodius said...

I guess the microwave wasn't on my radar. It's funny what sticks with us.

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