I have five cousins, three on my mother’s side and two on my father’s side. But only one close to my age. My cousin Susan is a little over two years older than I am, the rest are many years older or many years younger. As an only child, I was fascinated by the fact she had siblings. She is the closest to a sibling I will ever have.
Growing up in a military family, we only saw each other every few summers and several Christmases but the time together is vivid in my memory. I worshiped her as older, I was jealous of her for living way closer to our grandparents and, I loved those magical times when it was the two of us connected and conspiratorial.
One Christmas, we convinced out Papa to let us cut down a small tree from his property and put it in the bedroom we were sharing. We decorated it and tried to convince everyone we should get up at five a.m for Christmas morning.
There were summers searching for sea glass in the coves of small islands off the coast of Maine. Trips to the beach and lots of boating. There was the two of us in our Laura Ashley dresses for our grandparent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.
We did not always see eye to eye, I am sure sometimes I came off as the pesky younger cousin to entertain when she would rather be with her friends, like in middle school and high school. Then there was that time I got frustrated following her lead in our play and I dropped the piano key covers down on her hands. I instantly regretted it and I think it was the only time I did something mean-spirited towards someone, I imagine much like a sibling. That one moment still flashes in my mind whenever I want to lash out at someone in anger and it keeps me from acting.
As we have led our adult lives living in different states, our lives have been more apart than together, but this summer we made the effort to reconnect. For me, it was a renewal of that bond we have through blood and our shared love of water. We had this reunion at her beach house in Nags Head.
I was reminded of how little family I have and how I need to take more care to nurture those bonds. I have always lived far from family, so it seems natural, but as we age and especially as we see our parent’s age, we need each other more than we used to. After all, family shares a narrative unique to them. Simply put she is truly the only one in our generation who knows our story.
I hope we will continue to make the effort to see each other more often. We both have property near beaches and there are plenty of them between us. Salt water and blood flow through us and our shared history. That with love will be the tie that binds.