The Sister and I have a lot of cousins but we grew up in Nova Scotia and all of our cousins lived in Newfoundland, Quebec or Ontario. Needless to say, we didn’t get to know them very well when we were young.
There are some cousins that still remain a mystery to me. I remember images of them from a family reunion or pictures that were enclosed in Christmas cards but they are mainly just names. There are cousins with families that I will probably never meet.
There was one group of cousins, however, who we did get to know better than others. These were the children of my father’s three sisters. Dad was their baby brother and efforts were always made to visit and reunite whenever possible. But still, it wasn’t often enough.
Auntie Geraldine’s sons were funny outgoing football/hockey players who I particularly admired. As children, we saw them the most frequently because we would visit with them when visiting our Grandparents in Montreal. They were several years older and very busy with their own lives but they always seemed to have time for their little girl cousins visiting from Nova Scotia.
I always envied the relationship that they had with my paternal grandparents. They were lucky enough to grow up in the same city and would see them almost every day. When my grandparents called long distance to talk to us, I remember not wanting to come to the phone and asking my sister to pretend to be me because I was too shy and didn’t know what to say. When we visited, I was always timid and nervous for the first couple of days, not remembering them well enough to be immediately comfortable.
When I was seventeen, we attended the elder son’s wedding. His wife was beautiful (and she still is… both wife and beautiful) and I was in awe of her elegant hair and sweeping dress. Particularly memorable was the wedding photos we stopped to take with one of the tanks at the site of the Oka crisis barricade.The route from the church and the reception was a detour around the epicenter of the stand-off.
I would say that the younger son is the cousin with whom The Sister and I have stayed the closest. In fact, he couch surfed at The Sister’s basement apartment in Ottawa for a spell. He also made the trip with Auntie Geraldine to my wedding in Cuba and made a legendary pre-wedding speech that I sadly missed because I was corralled in another building.
My Auntie Eileen’s children were also older and we saw them less frequently. They lived in Ontario and we were lucky if we saw them once every few years. Her daughter is an amazingly talented artist and always seemed so sophisticated to me as I tagged along behind her and The Sister and their cool 80’s hair. The son was, in my young school girl opinion, drop dead handsome… need I say more?
Auntie Pat’s kids were the only set that was younger than us. I loved our rare visits with them because her daughter was my perfect playmate and I got to treat her son like the annoying little brother I never had!
Now, through the magic of Facebook, I am able to catch up with some of these elusive cousins of my youth (I’m very proud to learn that the hockey genes run strong through the entire next generation!) and it is fun to see how similar we all are no matter what distance separates us in past or present.
So why am I telling you about my cousins? Because they have had a huge impact on my life, whether they know it or not. I have made major life decisions because I missed not knowing them better and envied the closer relationships they had with my grandparents and each other.
When it was time to retire from tennis officiating and stop travelling, I knew that I wanted to start my family near my parents and The Sister. My boys know both sets of their grandparents so well that they call them on their own now, just to say hi. Even in the craziness of our lives, we manage to see them a lot. My dad will even take them to hockey practices and attends all of their games.
As for The Sister’s kids, their cousins, they are like siblings. We celebrate every birthday and holiday together and they often get together on the weekends just to play. In fact, again this year, CJ and his cousin are on the same hockey and soccer teams.
Almost everyday I tell someone how lucky I am to have all of my family nearby. Their love and support doesn’t need to travel long distance and, as you know from reading this blog, family is the most important thing in my life.
So… to my cousins (you know who you are) I thank you and I love you! You have helped make my family what it is today.