A recent article in the Chicago Tribune extolled the merits of having cousins in a person’s life. Cousins, the experts say, are close enough to understand the family dynamics but distant enough to provide perspective. Cousins are also often the keepers of the family lore, passing down the stories that provide a family’s collective identity.
As the child of parents who both came from big families, I have been blessed with many many cousins, including ones “adopted” from my mom’s first marriage. Cousins have always made it fun to visit family, and I have many fond memories as a result. Visits to the cousins out in the country (as we thought of suburban Downers Grove, Illinois) were always a blast because of the wide open spaces and relative freedom we had there. I remember watching the moon landing with them on the TV in their den. Our cousins in Wheaton would always take us on walks to the local 7-Eleven for Slurpees, and the ones in Riverside would lend us bikes so that we could ride around the curving streets of the quaint little town. The Robinson cousins were mostly girls, so we sisters always enjoyed our get togethers with them.
My cousin Wally once took my younger siblings and me to see the Christmas trees from around the world at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Chrissy and Ceil showed us the wonders of Arizona, as well as Chrissy’s cool volcano that she had made for science class. And my cousin Trish and I, who are the same age, have been steadfast friends and pen pals since early childhood. We shared a love for teeny bopper magazines, Dark Shadows, and the Chicago Cubs, among many other things. I will never forget the time we visited her house and picked cherries from the tree in the backyard. Upon bringing them home and starting to stem the cherries, we realized they were riddled with worms.
My own children have also been blessed with dozens of cousins since my husband and I also hail from large families. Their cousins have taught them invaluable lessons, such as how to watch violent, scary movies their parents would disapprove of. They have shared lots of laughs, embarrassing moments, and clothing styles over the years. I have loved seeing the cousins grow up and maintain the bond that comes from having to put up with the same crazy family together. A tradition from my side of the family has sprung up at family weddings. The adult cousins get together and do “cousin shots,” which are followed by much hilarity and pizza consumption.
Like siblings, cousins grow up together and share the family secrets. Yet unlike brothers and sisters, who tend to fight and experience rivalry, cousins don’t see each other enough to get on each other’s nerves too much. To paraphrase a common expression, keep your friends close and your cousins closer.