Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ChildSky

that.way
wide.open

I had the fortunate experience as a growing young girl to have yearly visits with my 3 cousins (my only American cousins) in northern Indiana. Outside of cousins being pretty much the best part of any holiday, we were particularly lucky to have the perfect match up of ages, temperaments, and genders... my mild mannered sister Eleni paired up with my mature and kind cousin Liesl, my spirited brother George was the perfect match for my fiesty and mischievous cousin Curtis, and being the baby in my family I was plopped together for better or worse (always better) with sweet, bubbly Meghan - the other baby. And we were essentially the giggle girls. My cousins, I assumed from a very early age, had it so much better than us. They lived across the farm from my grandparents. My imagination pondered the luxury of just walking across a few acres of field and cornstalks to see your grandparents. Pie, potatoes and chocolate sheet cake just minutes away and likely once halfway there, you'd be able to smell it coming at you, you'd break into a gallop to arrive just before you missed the last slice, scoop, piece. I had only their holiday house in my mind, you see. The idea that there might also be some sort of mundane day to day experience escaped me entirely. Jealousy was always more entertaining than reality.

With that field, that farm, those barns and coups full of animals, those two houses full of cousins, grandparents, and warm, delicious, sweet smells, I was given - as often as we could make the 500 mile drive - a cousin experience that could not have been better. Meghan collected koalas. Here room was littered with every imaginable shape, size, color, stuffed, poster, book and sticker of koalas (enter lovely jealousy again). The boys were usually hurting one another, fighting over the rules of any game, or scheming a prank on us. The mature girls were typically off doing something mature, I guess, we were rarely ever welcome. When we did catch a glimpse of their make-believe through a cracked door, it usually involved pretend boyfriends or pretend families, so we could leave that scenery entirely uninterested, and opt for something like a staring contest over Lays potato chips, where the bust-out of laughter was accompanied by shooting food in each others' faces. We were the babies. All I can remember is laughing, really.

I do remember one early evening where Meghan and I were running through the fields behind my grandparents' house and something had upset me.... I think one of the other kids. I was wearing a zippered sweater. I told Meghan I was running away. The sky was huge. And filled with more color than what seemed possible for a sunset. It went on forever, the flat landscape barely putting up a fight to obstruct any part of it from our view. I ran, and ran, yelling that I would never come back, my mouth tasted bright and salty with exhaustion in the northern air. And Meghan, a few years younger, kept after me, ran as hard, caught up, and begged me not to do it. She was the only one of the two of us that believed I actually would. She cried. And begged. She wasn't my sister who knew better because I usually never made it passed that row of pine trees in the back side yard. She wasn't my brother who wouldn't have been paying attention anyway, busy with whatever boys do. She was my cousin. My baby cousin. She didn't see me everyday and know better. She didn't account for the safety net I could bounce off of by just running from our grandparents' farm to my aunt & uncles barn. I learned that she loved me. And hours later we were back at the gigglefest in her room, in the dark. Past our bedtime. She up on her squeaky, springy bed, and me down on the trundle telling her that I never would have really done it. Both of us laughing hysterically.

Years later I would lay on that same trundle, as an 18yr old, in the dark and tell dear sweet baby Meghan that I was pregnant. When I did, she laughed and laughed and begged me to be serious. Like she had learned her lesson from me after so many Thanksgivings and Christmases. But then we cried and cried. And laughed.

The wide open, ridiculously colored skies that directed us on the long drive from a cousin visit in New York last week, brought back so much to me. Its amazing, isn't it? Sights, sounds, smells. Childhood and what it made of you. I watched our children with their cousins during the visit. Sometimes I felt I could label a certain giggle, or bike ride, or slip down the backyard slide as a memory for them and file it away in their little unaware brains. I could see them being made, right there in front of me. And they have no idea how much it will all mean to them one day.

And I felt glad and thankful.
Thank you all my cousins, near and far, especially Meghan who chased me down and loved me.
xoAnna

44 comments:

  1. You tell the best stories. Thank you!

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  2. Beautifully written Anna, I have tears in my eyes from reading your memories and thinking of mine.
    Thank you.
    Grace

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  3. Such a beautiful post..made me tear up! I personally did not grow up with close cousins. But, I was the baby of 7 and we now have created a brood of 16 cousins. We always marvel at their relationships - at every family gathering, they seem to pick up right where they left off and their friendship is so unconditional...I love it! Thank you for sharing this!

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  4. Anonymous11:03 AM

    amazing xx

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  5. Lily Darger11:23 AM

    I needed this! My siblings and I all had close cousins on both sides, but my kids are 1 and 2 with no cousins yet. But the other night, my younger brother shared with me his happy news of an unexpected child on the way. He says he scared, but he can't stop grinning.

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  6. Anonymous11:25 AM

    Sheesh, lady, can you ever tell a story. I feel like I've traveled to another time and place and been another person, all in under five minutes.

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  7. You are such a skilled writer, AM. Thank you for that story of your childhood, the sharing of your pregnancy.... I don't have any cousins that I'm super close to, mainly because my sisters and I were so much younger than my cousins. Your relationship with Meghan reminds me of my relationship with my sister, Emilee. We definitely have that deep connection to each other and that devotion that runs so deep. I can't wait for her to catch up to me and tell me that she's getting married, having a baby and then our kids can grow up together. That is the sweet life I dream of. And the grandparent part you mentioned. I desire that togetherness in my family. Thanks again for your beautiful post!

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  8. Sigh...beautiful...thanks!!

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  9. What a beautiful story and so well writen. Wish you'd write a book about that childhood. I'd buy it.

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  10. Anonymous12:05 PM

    *sniff*

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  11. Such a beautiful story! And gorgeous photograph, I know exactly how you felt. Thank you so much for sharing

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  12. That was beautiful. My kids just asked me my I was crying. I have wonderful "cousin" memories like that too and cherish them as well. Sadly my children will not get to have them. But we are making it up to them with good friends instead.

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  13. I miss those Midwestern sunsets. And I miss my cousins now, too. Our family is much the same, and now that we're all grown and spread all over, I missed those holidays with them.

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  14. You just made me cry! I never had that experience with my cousin, but I have been lucky to be able to watch my children have that kind of relationship with their cousins. You so beautifully put into words what I witness and love about FAMILY! Thank you!

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  15. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing....:)

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  16. beautiful,just beautiful! great photos, too! :)

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  17. So very beautifully said... thanks for sharing. :)

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  18. That was wonderful to read and so, so sweet!! Thanks you for sharing that!

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  19. Anonymous2:49 PM

    Yes, a beautiful and lovely piece of writing. I can equate with what you have said.

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  20. I totally teared up...beautiful memories you have shared. I felt as though I was there, so well-written. Thank you :)

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  21. Anna, you are such an amazing writer! You actually made me cry.
    Please write a novel one day.
    x

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  22. You have the storyteller's gift. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  23. Anonymous7:14 PM

    oh, i didn't think i would cry but i sure am. my cousins did and still do mean the world to me. my little boy will likely not have any, and that is such a shame. love your "work" posts, but love your memory posts just as much, and sometimes more!!

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  24. Kristan8:18 PM

    I'm all teary over here. It brought back my own Hoosier memories. There were 6 of us as well, all running around creating our own little world on my great-grandparents' farm in Southern Indiana.

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  25. Lovely story, pity I'm jealous!
    Sigh, least my kids have cousins. Thanks for sharing your memories.

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  26. Oh, this instantly struck a note in my heart... similarities, tents in the back yard with cousins, dear memories.
    Thank you for bringing us a taste of this!

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  27. I picked up the phone and called my cousin Margie...so many memories, thank you Anna Maria.

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  28. oh wow, what an incredible story. i loved the few times a year that i got to hang out with my cousins growing up. with cousins in big families, you definitely pair up with whoever's closest in age, but it's so easy to be friends and pick up where you left off. :)

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  29. What a lovely story, you hit me right in the heart this morning! I love my childhood memorys and treasure them as diamonds in a box.

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  30. You always manage to make me stop and think awhile. Thank you.

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  31. Mariah in Montana9:08 AM

    It is my biggest sadness for my three boys, 5,7,9, that they don't have cousins. It is truly a magical thing...sigh

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  32. where in northern indiana did you go? I am from indiana. linda gerig

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  33. Beautiful. You brought me happy tears this morning over my coffee. (The best kind of tears, by the way.)

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  34. Hi Linda, we were in Pierceton Indiana, not far from Fort Wayne :)

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  35. Anonymous11:42 AM

    yes, you are a wonderful writer and put into words things that we all feel ........very beautiful memories....thank you for sharing.....

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  36. I was from Auburn and my husband Harlan near fort wayne. wonderful country. Linda Gerig

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  37. Such a sweet story and you tell it very well. My kids just had a wonderful cousin weekend. We don't match up quite as well as y'all do, though. My two girls match up with their oldest two, but my 14 year old son was paired up with their baby girl. They ended up having a really fun time together, though. It was sweet to see him playing so sweetly with a tiny girl. He's going to be a good dad some day.

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  38. What a great story. Made me tear and think of my childhood and my two cousins I was so close to. Now that life happened it's really sad we are as close to one another no longer. I will still always have those great memories.
    Thanks Anna for this wonderful story

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  39. Such a beautiful story! Memory is so powerful!

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  40. Anonymous10:25 PM

    Thank you so much for reminding me how wonderful my cousins are...family really is the best part of everything and you paint the clearest pictures of those treasured memories. Thanks for sharing.

    Jenn H.

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  41. You are a very gifted writer. I enjoyed reading your memories. Very touching,
    Nancy Dunn

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  42. This feels like just out of Tom Sawyer, so much colour and life in your words. Thank you for this perfectholiday tale :)

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