“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.
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this is really bittersweet for me – I treasure family – I wanted a sister so badly when I was young and feel like I have done everything I could to make sure we have some kind of relationship even though we really have very little in common. Recently we have become estranged and I am not really sure why – she does not like one of my daughters and seems to resent me for it. She is much more social so our cousins know her better than they know me, I am much older than they are. So now I feel very much outside the family circle and very saddened. I really wish it were much different. Ironically, some of my cousins are trying to organize a cousin brunch. I’m still debating whether I will go.
Love this! After both my parents passed away, I started meeting my cousin for lunch. It is amazing how much more info she has about the family then I ever did.
Amazing to see that other ones are close to their cousins. I always wanted a sister and didn’t have one but my cousin is just like a sister to me. The hardest thing I find is trying to find her a cousin card for special occasions. I really don’t know what I would do without her.
What memories this picture evokes. I remember you all. And, wholeheartedly agree, about family and friends.
We remember you, too, Penni!!!
All of the Barbara Delinsky books are such great reads! Once you start to read it’s very hard to put the book down even to do necessary chores. I remember getting the first of an audio book & thinking I won’t be able to concentrate on this while traveling for my job, but it was amazing that I caught all of it! Thank you Barbara for always coming up with something new!