Just Be Cuz


We’re back from a trip to Omaha for time with extended family.  We participated in two family reunions (Grandpa’s side and Grandma’s side) and visited with all of my husband’s living aunts and uncles, all but two of his cousins. 

I’m curious about cousins.  Some are functional strangers who happen to be related.  Sharing an ancestor doesn’t appear to be enough commonality to carry on a conversation. 

But other cousins, upon meeting for the first time in decades, seem familiar, because they truly are family.  They are kin and kindred. 

It’s fun to discover family traits that travel through parallel generations.  One cousin said her husband calls her relatives “human doings” because of their high energy and focus on activity.  She quizzed Curt on his personality and came up with many matches; for example, she likes to read but only if all the work is done. 

We heard and told many stories.  Ah, the art of storytelling: the opening, timing, animation, interaction, enthusiasm, and the ability to stick the landing.  It’s fun to listen to couples tag-team their history, one jumping in with color commentary, one handing off the narrative, at times both talking in stereo.  And stories flowing downstream accrue more stories.  There were goofy and crazy yarns, funny and unexpected outcomes.  But the ones that found a home in my heart were the stories where the person opened up his/her life, pain and all, and didn’t mask the hurt.

I have a friend who has no cousins.  No aunts or uncles.  Her dad and mom were both the only child.  Her family history goes straight up the branch like a poplar tree.   

We all grow up with the weight of history on us.
Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains
 as they do in the spiral chains of knowledge
 hidden in every cell of our bodies.

    ~ Shirley Abbott

The great gift of family life is
to be intimately acquainted with people
 you might never even introduce yourself to,
had life not done it for you.

    ~ Kendall Hailey, The Day I Became an Autodidact

Call it a clan,
call it a network,
call it a tribe,
call it a family.

Whatever you call it,
whoever you are,
you need one.

~ Jane Howard

How many cousins do you have?  Do you see them often?  Ever?  With what emotions do you anticipate family gatherings? 


15 thoughts on “Just Be Cuz

  1. I have/had 6 first cousins. They lived in Calif, we in Oregon. so we didn’t see them often. But shared fun times when we did get together. I remember pitching the tent in the pasture and ‘camping’ out in the summer when they came to visit and running around barefoot at Christmas time because California was SO WARM! Since the grandparents and parents have left the earth, we haven’t kept in contact, seems some families are held together by the elders and when they are gone the others disperse. One cousin died, and my youngest cousin just moved to Phoenix, but everyone else is still in Southern Calif. The V family on the other hand, think My Big Fat Greek Wedding without the ionic columns!

  2. Dad – 2nd youngest of 9Mom – only childCousins – some are 40+ years older than I am [mom and dad had a family late in the game]. Spent most of childhood with MOM’s cousins who were already old, too. 🙂 just wasn’t part of our experience. Husband: Cousins EVERYWHERE. We’ve been to 2 family reunions this summer alone. Though, since Gram is gone, the gatherings have lost their focus, and also have lost many attending cousins… we wondered aloud on the way home how long the gathering would last in her absence. She was a force to be reckoned with – died at 98 last summer… 

  3. @applechexx – @wonderloveandpraise – the absence of the patriarch/matriarch makes a difference, doesn’t it?  With my own siblings, it takes work to keep connected.  I like to say, “all it takes to lose touch is to do nothing.”  And yet–since we lost our parents when we were young, it means so much to be together.  It is certainly worth the extra effort.

  4. This is a depressing topic to me. I, myself, have cousins that are all older than I am. I have never felt connected to them. We were geographically and culturally distant, and though I have met them all, I still don’t feel connected. Part of that is on my dad’s side my two uncles married two sisters of the same cultural group, the nearest in age to me was ~ 5 years. On my mom’s side the cousins lived in Kansas, and again the youngest was about 5 years older. I was the pesky little girl that got in the way. My briother, the baby of both sides, was everybodies darling.YET when we have the chance to meet, such as at my mom’s 90th birthday celebration this last June, I have no trouble talking to them, and I am not the pest I was. All is well.Kent’s family is another story, He has so many first cousins it makes my head spin! A Hicks reunion is a sight to behold. He was raised among his cousins and considers many of them close personal friends. Makes me think of Rabbit in Pooh with all his friends and relationsConnection is the key. If the parents make the effort to connect their children to their kin, the connection will be stronger later. We made the decision to stay in this area where our folks and brothers were. Our kids hunt with their cousins, screen their ‘friends’ , play games and work on projects of adulthood together, celebrate together. They have the interwoven life I didn’t have.

  5. Ah Carol, cousins have been a focus for me this summer. My sisters and I grew up with our male cousins who were the same ages as us (mom’s sister’s boys). We spent so much time together as kids but have rarely seen each other as adults due to mom’s divorce, moving, and life situations. This June, my youngest cousin died due to an overdose after two years of dealing with the aftermath of two tours in Afghanistan — my reunion with my cousins was at Steven’s memorial. I hugged each one, sobbing with the ache of time passed, memories shared, and wishes that our reunion was somewhere other than a military cemetary. The positive side is that we are now reconnected via FB and will try to stay in touch somewhat despite living in three different states.

  6. I, myself, have only 6 first cousins.  As you know, my children have dozens 🙂  Here’s a link to an article I enjoyed several years ago, as I began to explore the instinctive bond between cousins…. even if one doesnt know the other very well.http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=19-06-013-vFuthermore, you know from my blog that I love family reunions, even if they’re a lot of work and trouble, coupled with degrees of anxiety.  It takes practice to learn how to gather.This Kin Hubbard quote always pricks my conscience:There is plenty of peace in any home where the familiy doesnt make the mistake of trying to get together.I think I prefer *bickering* to the kind of *peace and quiet* that only comes when families DONT try and get together.

  7. I only have 4 first cousins. We grew up in the same area and always spent Christmas Eve together. But my sister and I were around the same ages as my 3 male cousins, and my brother was the same age as my female cousin, so I think the mix kept us kinda distant. Their father, an elder in our church, left my aunt for another woman and their family really fell apart. All 4 kids got into drugs pretty heavy, LSD and heroin, which distanced us even more. Today I only hear about them from my dad once in awhile. Once I got married, we almost always had my dad’s parents, my aunt and her new husband, and my dad/stepmom over on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. So it was good for my daughters to have those loving adults there for them, I think. Yes, I would have liked to have had closer relationships w/ my extended family…..

  8. Oh, if I’d have known you were in Omaha I would have insisted on a visit!  Sounds like you had a wonderful time. I had just written down this quote about families from my Chesapeake reading and I think it relates: “a family rises or falls primarily because of the way it marshals its genetic inheritance & puts it to constructive use.”  Sometimes we don’t see the big picture or know what our genetic inheritance really is until we get the BIG clan together!  Blessings to you.

  9. @PoiemaPortfolio – I just read this and my stomach churned.  I DIDN”T KNOW you lived in the environs of Omaha.  I would have found time to slip away and see you face to face.  Sigh.I consider it a great loss to have missed you.  And you know what’s funny?  I don’t even know your name!  But you have blessed me time and time and time again.Next year in Jerusalem, as the Jews say.  Or forever in glory! 

  10. Seven first cousins, only one my age, and she lived quite a ways away.  I am in touch with all of them through blogs or Facebook, with one exception.  My MIL has 30 grand children ages <1 to 32. So where is that in Omaha?  Surely it was some sort of lodge?  Oh, oh are you Warren Buffett’s cousin?  Oh yeah his house is normal sized.  You were just two hours down the road from me!  Hope you had a good time. 

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