The Cousin Conundrum, Part 2

To get the full story, please read The Cousin Conundrum, Part 1 first!


When I landed back in my birthplace after over three decades in the Pacific Northwest, I had great expectations of regularly hanging out with “real” family again and re-connecting with members of my large family tree. Yet, over a decade later, I often feel like I still live hundreds of miles away from most of my cousins, aunts and uncles.

The legendary family Christmas parties and summer picnics have all but grown extinct in my hometown. My generation has chosen not to carry on the traditions that brought our large clan together on a regular basis.   Over the years, each branch of the family tree appears to have grown increasingly independent from the others.

The disparity between my  dreams of having close relationships with my cousins and reality put me into a conundrum—was there something wrong with our family (or me)? Continue reading


The Cousin Conundrum, Part 1

The luncheon after my uncle’s graveside service was winding down, and the cameras were coming out. “Let’s get a picture of all the first cousins,” I suggested. As we lined up, someone motioned to a middle-aged woman across the room to join us.   “Whose cousin is that?” I asked, “She’s not my cousin.”   Sure she is, that’s Joanie,” another cousin said.

As the woman came closer, she smiled and I clearly recognized my Uncle Bob’s countenance in hers. “Of course,” I said sheepishly.   I guess I shouldn’t feel too badly—I don’t think she would have known me, either, had we passed on the street. I can’t remember the last time I had seen Joanie in person—it had been decades. My mental image of her as a pretty little blond girl was long outdated.

I was born into a large extended relation, with thirteen children in my mom’s family and seven in my dad’s. From these siblings came my dozens of cousins, literally. I have fond childhood memories of playing with my cousins in our small rural community. I always looked forward to going out to their farms, especially if they had horses. I grew very close to one cousin and considered her a best friend. Continue reading