Over Thanksgiving, my family and I drove 20 minutes out of our way to see my cousin (who had come in from out of town) at another cousin’s house, for a grand total of 15 minutes. We were all full and tired and had needy kids who were staying up way past their bedtime. But as we were getting in the car to go home, my husband commented on the fact that we were all giggling within a few minutes of getting there – and that we tend to act 10 years younger when we are together.
I’m not sure how I responded. I probably reiterated my need to SEE my cousins in person every once and a while (the internet and/or texts can’t quite capture our sass). I probably went on a rant about how our kids need to grow up with their kids. I probably giggled again just thinking about it.
My husband grew up with only two cousins, but a neighborhood of friends that he is still close to. I, in comparison, grew up with dozens of first, second, and third cousins. No matter what side of the family, no matter what event, I always had someone to play with.
And this is why I am firm in the belief that cousins are the best kind of friends.
I got to go to school with some of them. Their presence making me a little less shy, a little more at ease as I shakily transitioned to middle school and then high school, exploring extracurricular activities and generally finding my place.
Sometimes one of us would pack a bag and hide it in our parent’s cars as we made our way to a family event—dead set on staying the night at one of our houses. Ready to put a plan in place for which aunt or uncle we were going to gang up on.
The first time I dyed my hair. The first time I played “light as feather, stiff as a board” and had a séance. The first time I smoked a cigarette. The first time a boy at a party flirted with me. I was with my cousins. We never got into too much trouble because, after all, we had to answer to the same people. I felt safe.
And when I found myself as an adult, heartbroken with no job—and called my cousin to “chat,” it took her about 10 seconds to hear the quiver in my voice and say “come stay with me for awhile.” Forever altering the course of my life.
The relationships I developed with my cousins have been my baseline for the friendships I’ve made through life. From growing up with each other we learned how to treat people, and how to be treated. I don’t get to see many of them as often as I’d like, as we have all taken on new roles as husbands, wives, parents, and/or employees. But as soon as we get in a room together – we’re good. We’re home.
I can only hope for the same for my own kids. My girls have already begun developing great relations with their cousins, who are all very close in age. And while birthday parties and sleepovers and zoo trips and cookie exchanges and road trips and museums experiences can seem like so much work, and so much planning. I AM ON BOARD. I want my kid’s safety net to be as big and expansive as possible, and you better believe that I will be there in a second for any of my nieces and nephews, just like my family is still there for me.
So to my cousins – thank you for being my first best friends. And to my brothers and sisters and in-laws – get ready, because I want my girls to know and love and experience everything that I did growing up. And to my husband—I will just say sorry in advance. I see a lot of quality cousin time happening in our future, and it won’t be easy on the ears.