I don’t know about the rest of you but I tend to jump across the lilipads of my life when I remember to, looking for signs and trends. Sometimes the external world is showing me something that I’m not getting on the inside and once I notice it, there’s that “aha, I get it” moment.
This trip, there was a trend about cousins.
We don’t have a whole lot of extended family in our family tree. My Dad was an only child, his mother was an only child, many cousins have been only children. We’ve had to wander way out in to the grove to find each other sometimes.
The good part of this is when cousins can become like siblings.
We grew up in the Midwest but spent every summer venturing out to the East. We’d pile in our camper and make these crazy long drives, finally landing at the edge of the world: Wells Beach Maine. Those summers were insane in terms of people we crammed in to that cottage. We’d often have the camper filled with kids sleeping, mattresses pulled off the box springs and people sleeping on both, camping on the beach and all the tables in the cottage stretched across the dining room snaking through the living room to make one huge table filled with lobster, fish, spaghetti, crazy long meals. And these wild raucous dish washing evenings after filled with wet dishrag butt slapping, music blasting, laughter, fun times. We all bonded over those dishes for many years. Cousins and beach cousins as we called our friends.
We’ve all grown up now and not without our personal and collective tragedies. Cindy was killed and just shortly after that, Brad died in Thailand of an accidental overdose. Brad who’d struggled for years with a drug problem yet who was a poet, a funny and deep young man who’s sisters Leslie and Katy miss terribly to this day. Just like we all miss Cindy. Just as we bonded from dish washing and beach combing, we are now bonded in grief.
Maile, who was in some ways the healthiest of us all. While we were sleeping in as teenagers, maybe working off some creme de menthe hangover from the night before as we experimented with the liquor cabinet, Maile was up jogging the beach first thing the morning. Fit, trim, happy, healthy, it came as a shock to learn Maile had struggled with her own demons and drove in to the desert one morning a few years ago and took herself off the planet. It’s still hard to fathom.
Those of us who remain stand tall and hold hard and fast to our memories. Maybe tragedy makes you dig deeper in to the roots you do have and grasp those hands more firmly to those who are still standing along side you.
All I know, is I can cram more bonding time in to a few short hours with my cousins than I can in my normal life with my social circle in a year. As it should be.
Katy came down for the first weekend this year, drove all the way down to Boston to pick me up at the airport (I usually take a shuttle up to New Hampshire) and had a frappuccino and water waiting for me and lobster salad and champagne in the car. Talk about service! Her adorable little girls, Eveland and Natalie, the closest I will ever come to being a real ‘Auntie” came with and we packed more in to that weekend yet relaxed, laughed, caught up. When I say packed more, I mean more sharing.
Katy and I sat on the porch for hours that first night drinking wine, eating potato chips and digging deep in to our lives. This is what life is for! These kinds of experiences. When she left, she left me her down comforter to use for the rest of the week. We grew up to be very similar in certain ways…we both love comfort and a certain degree of simple luxuries. I’d love to go to the wine country with her–she loves wine, food and spa experiences just like me. Who’d have thought we’d land together in these ways?
After the week was over, Dad and I decided to head down to Portsmouth , NH where Katy, her family and her Dad live for one night en route to Vermont. My father and Katy’s Dad grew up similarly, like brothers, 10 years apart like Katy and I, but close. The cycles of life turning in unison.
We picked up lobsters and steamers and Katy of course made a feast of everything. As soon as I got there, I saw a hammock way in the back of their yard. I love hammocks. That little hammock sit turned in to Katy appearing with glasses of wine for us both, a seat for her and at least an hour of catching up in the cool evening air. I mean we hadn’t seen each other in at least 5 days…lots had happened! 😉
see the hammock situation in the background?
that stuffed spaghetti squash was my entry in the cooking competition the night before–more on that in another post
Big lobster dinner with the kids and family, then more wine and jammies and Katy and I landed in the living room, sharing, talking, laughing, crying until 2:30 am!!! We were shocked when we looked at the clock through our slitted eyes and saw that time. I know we both hated to go to bed as we could have stayed up all night talking. These are experiences worth traveling for, worth working for, worth opening yourself up for.
I think we both felt so full, for lack of a better word, that we knew we could sustain ourselves for another year until we see each other again. Aren’t those kinds of relationships just so amazing? Where it’s like no time has passed and we pick right up where we left off? Yes, like that.
The next morning, my Dad and I hit the road on a Father/Daughter Road Trip to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Wow. How breathtaking the drive!
On the way, we passed an exit where “The Old Man in the Mountain” lived (a rock formation that’s fallen now but is still a spectacular vista). We poked around a bit and saw a tram that heads up to the top that looked so fun so decided to take our cousins there during our trip to their house.
Those cousins, who I call Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bill, are 91 and 92 now and live, literally, on top of a mountain with one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. I’ve visited them before but not at this time of year to see the trees just start to change and a cool crisp attitude in the air.
Ruthie and I went almost immediately out to their “viewing section”, the chairs facing this extraordinary view watching it change over glasses of wine and catching up. She’s an amazing person. She knew my Grandma Buddha very very well, like best friends, also cousins, so is full of stories about her. I wish I’d had more time one on one with her to extract more of those memories. Next year.
Ruth and Bill’s son, Billy, and his wife Annie, live very near and spend a lot of time checking in on them so they can continue to live there independently, at least for now.
Now Billy and Anne are also amazing, interesting people. My cousin and cousin in law. They literally built their house themselves and lived in it, raising their kids, without electricity or modern plumbing. For YEARS they lived like that, off the land and off the grid. Buddha absolutely adored them both and even stayed at their log cabin a night or two I think. Which cracks me up as she was such a proper city lady.
Billy and Anne are just full of stories and experiences. We sat at the table, our last night there, hearing them share about swimming with manatees in Florida and a warm mineral spring place they discovered down there. And that was just one adventure of last year.
Annie was out of town the first night we got to Sutton (Bill and Ruth’s house) so Billy came up for dinner. My Dad had seen a few recipes in one of those free magazines you get at the grocery store so decided to make it. I have to say, it turned out amazing! Pork Schnitzel and sweet and sour red cabbage. YUM. We also picked up the most delicious maple ice cream for dessert that we found from a local creamery in Vermont. We sat around the table, sharing, laughing, talking, eating, drinking wine, for hours that night.
don’t miss Billy’s hand there to the right dangling his solitary noodle contribution
Shortly after that long meal, the adults went to bed and Billy and I stayed up finishing cleaning the kitchen and catching up. I brought something in to the pantry to put away and Billy finished loading the dishwasher and somehow that’s where we landed. Me standing in the doorway of the small pantry and Billy at the counter a couple feet in front of me, conversing. For at least an hour. At least. Finally I said “you wanna sit down?” and we moved to the table and continued our conversation until 12:30 am. Another marathon cuzzin convo!
It was great as we’ve both grown up in our own ways yet with many similarities in interests, personality, life traumas, etc. We’ve both though become seekers. When a seeker finds another seeker, well it’s game on. We talked about our family dynamics, our aspirations, our challenges and the ones we see upcoming with aging parents, the gamut.
looks like our brains disappeared in to the ether here
Although I’ve only had these kind of heart to heart talks with Billy as adults a few times, it’s a deep river that runs through us and one I felt so refreshed jumping in to.
So as I reflect, two nights in a row, two long marathon talks with two cousins. One ten years behind me and one ten years ahead. There is some kind of order in the Universe with all of that and a mystery as well. All I know is this is what I live for. This kind of connection making. This kind of soul stirring fulfillment that often shows up unexpectedly.
Like standing in a small pantry losing all track of time, captivated by this person you once knew as a wild teenager with a long curly ponytail who was living off the land, falling in to your past and your future at the same time.
They say we don’t pick our family. We get what we get.
But I say, if you look hard enough, and broad enough, you might just find a few shimmering diamonds out there waiting to be discovered.