“You can choose your friends, but you sho’ can’t choose your family.” So wrote Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird. It isn’t a new thought. Variations of it have appeared before and after, but the sentiment is spot on.
Blood connections are a physical reality. Unfortunately, many of us are stuck with relatives we don’t much care for. Arguments, bitterness, estrangement – I’ve heard so many stories of these things I often wonder whether the “dysfunctional family” is more the norm than not.
For my family, it was more about simply going our own way for great periods of time – avoiding confrontation, so to speak.
Then, a bit back, something happened. My generation of family members realized that in spite of our differences, we share a whole lot. We share genes. We share memories (albeit often different ones of the same event). We share daily habits.
Take crossword puzzles. My sisters and I – three very different women with different and disparate lives — discovered only when we were approaching fifty that we all do crossword puzzles, daily, in ink, just as our father used to do.
Cousins lunch first occurred twenty years ago, starting when one cousin and I began meeting for lunch once every month or two. After a while, another cousin joined us. Then another. Sometimes now, there are five of us, sometimes only four or three. But we meet monthly and I look forward to it.
Having realized that our outlooks on life are similar, we talk about politics, books, and health. But we also get into discussions of what we remember of our childhood. This, to me, is the best. I can’t do this quite the same way with friends. No matter how close a friend is, there are no memories of sharing a bedroom, suffering from a parent’s OCD, or dealing with childhood chubbiness. Some of the discussions we’ve had at cousins lunch have shed new light on where I came from and how those early life experiences have affected who I am now.
Cousins are different from friends. In some ways, I’m closer to my cousins, in other ways closer to my friends. Put the two together, and my life is definitely richer.