Wednesday, November 30, 2011
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.