Dozens of cousins
“We are cleaning up our stuff,” Meshach, the tile layer who now more or less permanently resides in our home, informed me. “We are giving you more space.”
“More space!” I said in mock amazement. “Why would I need more space? I see at least three square feet over there by the closet and another four feet behind the dining room table!”
Meshach squinted his eyes and looked at me seriously, as he does. He was again accompanied by his assistant, Yusefu, a recent immigrant from Kenya.
“Well, that is good,” Meshach said. “Because we have invited Yusefu’s cousins here to live.”
Yusefu’s eyes opened wide before he realized he was being teased. Then Yusefu smiled. “They are not large!” he insisted, gesturing with his arms. “I am the fattest one!”
This is now a running joke in our home – discussing how many of Yusefu’s cousins would fit in our living room at any given time.
Last weekend we spent time with a dozen of my husband Peter’s cousins at the funeral for Peter’s sister, and I thought of how enduring these ties to cousins are – even if they are not sleeping on our floor. Peter was the youngest cousin on his father’s side and so he remembers these cousins as the much older kids he grew up with. The older cousins were all cool or bossy and the younger cousins were all brats, to hear them tell it. It’s funny to realize that these people in their 70s still think of one another as the children they once were, but I feel the same way about my cousins.
I have dozens of cousins on my mother’s side and, like Peter, most of them are older than me. My cousin Jill will always be the super-cool girl with the dyed black hair ironing her peasant dress at the farmhouse. Her musician boyfriend would arrive in a VW Bug and I was awestruck. It doesn’t matter that Jill is now a Lutheran minister with grandchildren. To me, she will always be that elegant young woman flipping back her jet-black hair as she toiled over the iron. I knew I would never be as cool as Jill. I never was.
My cousins and I formed bonds that survive today. Last week, my cousin Dane took me to look at audio equipment, as we needed amplification for the funeral service. Dane told me I’d be better off borrowing what I needed from him. And so I did. Dane has always been quiet. He’ll wait for everyone to finish talking, then offer up an idea that begins with, “You know what you might do…” and it will be the most sensible thing said. It has always been this way.
Cousins are the friends I was given as a gift from my family. They are as different from me as they can possibly be, yet I will always keep a space for them in my life.
Meshach is pleased with the work he has done, and I don’t think either of us is eager to say goodbye. I can tell his work is nearly concluded because we could stash at least a dozen cousins in the available space – assuming they are as small as Yusefu claims.
But Peter and I are looking forward to having our home back, to finally putting books on the shelves and inviting people over for dinner.
“I know what we should do, when everything is finally finished,” I told Peter.
“We should invite your cousins over!”
I think we will. There’s plenty of room.
Till next time,