Posts Tagged ‘cousin’

Runaway Train

3 October 2010

Dear J-

All quiet on the western front tonight; after the brief disorientation that accompanies having the very early morning free to do what you want, we got up and headed north to collect our offspring. By the time we got there she was nowhere to be found, the house a blissful domestic tranquility: one walking the dog, one cooking breakfast, kids quietly at play in secret motions upstairs. figgy and her cousin are thick as thieves, darting off in the way close relations can, stranger friends brought close by circumstance and blood.

I remember all the road trips we took together; my parents were firmly convinced that the more hands on the wheel, the shorter the drive (although in typical fashion, they’d thereupon insist on doing all the driving for their guests), which meant long hours with kids you should know better. I’d learn all about my cousins on those trips; we lived in relative isolation from the rest of the family until 1987, when my dad’s much younger brother and sister* got married and started having kids of their own. So these were kids you’d see for a week at a time, just enough to get fascinated but not sick, and provide my brother and me with enough conversation for the next few months on just how cool they were.

There are so many stories we made up that we’d never breathe a word of to our respective parents and I’m sure that figgy’s started to get into that as well. They play games I’m not privy to, make obscure rules that no doubt result in whispers and giggling, just as we did, just as our parents and theirs did spinning away in time beyond reckoning. You have to let it be; part of growing up is standing on your own, and I could no longer stand in it’s path than stop a train with strength alone.


* With my dad as a sponsor, my grandparents came over in 1981, followed by my uncle and aunt a year later; it wasn’t until 1991 that the process was somewhat complete with my dad’s other sister and husband coming over with their youngest — the older son took another few years. Meanwhile much of the family on my mom’s side was established in St. Louis.


Content Creation

1 August 2010

Dear J-

There’s a lot of lessons to be learned in trying to meet up without a plan but suffice it to say that I never did get to see my cousin today coming out of the water after a five-mile swim (according to the table, he did well, just over a couple of hours).  We got there a little too late, I suspect, and because of my nonexistent phone skills, we never bothered to check until the stragglers were coming in.

On the other hand, figgy had a great time at the beach, getting thoroughly soaked (I did my part and walked around barefoot for as long as I could, driving barefoot too, stupid as that may be).  So the primary purpose wasn’t achieved, but we definitely had a good time; it’s been a good weekend, honestly, and no complaints are coming out of my camp tonight.  The envy-meter is low:  I’m not on the outside looking in at things I want or people I want to be.

That’s my key:  contentment.  It’s a question of being able to tune out the voices that insist that if only I had … or if it worked this way … Naw.  Nothing’s perfect.  I learned that when I was picking out a PDA years ago, choice falling between a Palm IIIc, Vx, or the original Sony Clie — they all had pluses and minuses, but it’s what you can live with.  Didn’t meet up; it’s okay.  figgy loves the beach, and I love watching her laugh.  Content, and happy.


Comfortable Pair

30 July 2010

Dear J-

This weekend one of my cousins — the one who just got married, in fact — will be in town doing an ocean swim that will consume his Sunday morning (and his new bride will be paddling alongside in a kayak: that’s love for you) while we’re busy either sleeping or stuffing our faces at our usual Sunday morning haunts. These are the choices for leisure time, after all.

Only a few years ago he arrived on our doorstep with the same plans to swim that same race and not much else, being at somewhat loose ends. He’d just left his job in a New York law firm and had vague plans to take the California Bar and make a fresh start. He ended up staying a week and we shared our routines, including the secret weapon (Di-Chan Thai Restaurant) that’s almost guaranteed to leave people with a good impression of San Diego. It was interesting having a guest: we did have to watch out for not spending all the time in our underwear, but other than that, it wasn’t so different that how we spend our days lately.

By that I mean there’s life as us and life as a trio; we’ve spent enough time as a pair that it’s very comfortable to hang out like this: quiet time. But when there’s three, we have more fun exploring the same old usual through new eyes; as much fun as we’ve had showing figgy different things, it’s more exciting to watch her learn. For instance, we’ve enrolled her in a Spanish language class; a couple of days ago, she told us she was thirsty and asked for some agua before bed. If we’d stayed comfortably two, we’d never have known any better.


Light House

4 June 2010

Dear J-

One of my cousins dropped by for dinner — it’s easy to forget that there are four of us now down here in Southern California, but when there’s a mob, one of us isn’t too far away. Of my cousins, this one — Amy — is the oldest and most outspoken; in fact, she actually went along (together with a couple of my mom’s sisters) on my parents’ honeymoon to Niagara Falls. I’ve said it before, but it’s funny how we all fall in together, chatting as though it was just yesterday we last saw each other; we gossip like fishmongers and catch each other up on family news.

theVet accuses me, not without reason, that I tend to say the same stories over and over again, so I’ll limit it to this bit: I remember going to St. Louis and she already had her driver’s license; she’s always seemed so impossibly, unapproachably mature compared to me that I can’t believe that we’re able to talk like real adults (there are multiple moments when I realize that I’m supposed to be a mature adult now; they are quite disturbing).

At times it seems like we’ve got a weddings-and-funerals relationship; we get together for big family events, and it’s nice to be able to see one another outside of those. You (I) tend to forget that we’re humans rather than bodies to drape fancy clothes off when occasion demands. Life is full of touch-and-goes; we spin apart and come back together at random moments, right? We can’t predict — we can’t know — the next chance and so these days stand out like beacons in my memory.


Wedding Vignettes

13 September 2009

Dear J-

Big Wedding

21 Spread 0806 -sm

The bride’s brother (both my cousins) confided their family represented perhaps the alpha and omega of wedding sizes; his wedding last year had sixteen guests, and the wedding today had three hundred and forty. You could almost call it the perfect confluence of My Big Fat Armenian Wedding (groom’s side, inviting family, friends, and distant acquaintances) and my giant family (where just inviting all the cousins means adding fifty hungry mouths to the guest list). At least this time none of the prospective spouses were daunted by the overwhelming family size.

Big Babies

Watchful Eye 0777 -sm

Seriously, what’s up with the wacky size distribution? All the other kids we know besides figgy are either zeroth percentile teeny tots or (as we found out today) ninety-fifth percentile monsters. After doing some clothes shopping based on ages for the other kids, we were warned that it was good we got a gift receipt; several of figgy’s cousins, despite trailing her by twelve months, were just as big. Maybe we’re not feeding her enough, or maybe we need to discontinue the whole notion of a baseline.

Food Service

Cake Cascade 0814 -sm

Dinner was good — we’re big fans of Mediterranean food — but I’ve never been to a reception where a seemingly endless array of appetizers stretches out on your table. We all sat around for a good half hour before digging in, as no one wanted to be the first to start eating, especially on the absence of the bride and groom.

Restroom Pervert

Luminous Arc 0809 -sm

Towards the end of the night we had to change figgy; after scouting it out, theVet beckoned me in to the ladies’ room to help. But immediately after I walked in, she went into a stall for some toilet paper, leaving me alone, wiping a half-naked figgy on the counter as some other guests arrived to give me the stink-eye before they also disappeared into their own stalls. Great, just what I needed right after being that guy who ruined the first dance by letting figgy nearly escape onto the dance floor (in restraining her, she let out a tremendous yell).


Cousin Talk

19 October 2008

Dear J-

Mike:  So, you need to tell me more about this movie.

Field:  Well, that’s it.

MIke:  What happens after the living banana turns into a statue?

Field:  No, that’s it!  That’s the end.

We have both kids tonight; it’s amazing to think of the changes that happen over these first few years.  figgy’s cousin is a bare three years older and the independence is remarkable; from picking out her own clothes to charming us with her stories.  Today we went up on the tram to Mt. San Jacinto, and all I can think of is how useful a child under her own locomotion (I got to pack her around in a backpack) would be.

I know, these days are ending soon enough; it’s enough to relax and treasure the non-verbal clues she does feed us.  Yet there’s a few situations where it would be helpful to have her explain to us what’s going on, rather than having her fuss every ten minutes.  But is it really easier given the art of deception and excuses that follows verbal skills.


Mortal Coil

16 October 2008

Dear J-

We’ll be on a trip the next few days; theVet’s sister has a timeshare in Palm Springs, so we’ll see if our daughters — cousins — can coexist in the same small space.  It’s one thing when figgy was relatively small and inert, but I suspect that there will be some initial bashfulness later on.  Expect the same format as last February’s trip — I’ll keep writing, and will update once we’re back.

But it’s the trip — the unexpected trip afterwards that I may end up making on my own — that weighs on my mind.  In brief, one of my aunts suffered a second stroke over the past weekend, one severe enough that she has yet to wake up from it.  Severe enough that do-not-resuscitate orders are being mentioned and finding use.  It’s a decision that there’s not a lot of research on, and one without comforting books and cards saying that it was the right one.  The decision has to be made at an emotional nadir, which leads to all kinds of second-guessing and self-doubt, compounded by the utter finality of it all.  And it sucks that my cousins already have to make it.

I’ve tried to imagine what a choice like that must be like, but I can’t fathom it; some things, I suppose, must be experienced to gain understanding.  You spend your time on earth as though you’ll live forever — so far, so good — and sure, any responsible person makes arrangements beforehand, but it’s still unexpected.  As children, all you know, all your world is your parents starting out; I see how figgy sees me and I’m always humbled by it.  You grow up, you get friends and a family of your own and your folks get put off to the side — but not forgotten, never disappeared, never all the way out; you keep that in your back pocket knowing as you do they’ll be there for you.  Where does it go?  Where do we go?  How do we continue?


Time’s Mirror

10 July 2008

Dear J-

Today’s my brother’s birthday; we have a cousin precisely three days older who used to live in the exotic land of Saudi Arabia (his dad, our uncle, worked for ARAMCO, and to compensate for the hassles of living out there, was well-compensated with crazy benefits, such as paying for boarding school, etc.).  I used to think that there was some kind of weird coincidence to having birthdays so close together, but considering there’s six billion people and only three hundred and sixty-five days to divide them up into, there’s bound to be a little overlap there.

He’s always been one of my heroes, by the way.  There was one year that he went through a modern algebra course — a senior college-level course, mind you — while still in high school, and managed to not miss any points that year.  Perfect homework, perfect quizzes, perfect exams.  Plus his fast-twitch skills were well beyond mine; we would play cooperative multiplayer games (TMNT II on the NES!) and it turned out that he did much better solo than when I tagged along — there were times that I lost track of which turtle I was controlling and thought I was doing very well.

Now that we’ve both unleashed a new generation on the world, I think I begin to understand him better now; I can see where we used to both revel in the seemingly limitless freedom following moving away from Cheney, and I can see where we apply the lessons we learned there in our lives today.  Fifteen years ago is now just under half our lives; fifteen years ago our lives were different — not better, different — and fifteen years ago we were kids ourselves believing everything.

Time reveals everything; for us I believe that time’s given us the perspective and opportunity to try on different personalities to see what aspects fit, and which didn’t stick.  Time’s crucible refines us, but fails to define us.  Despite wearing glasses for twenty-five years the face in the mirror gets clearer every day.


Should Have Stayed Home (A Tragedy in One Act)

2 December 2006

Sid Eupo: But what if I had run into a stranger, and I didn’t know at the time she’s my cousin?

Em Pore: Well, I suppose if you look at it that way — wait, why am I agreeing with you? We already know she’s your cousin, that’s why you have to go. That’s final. [aside: He can’t possibly suspect that prophecy is the real reason …]

Sid: Yeah, but she’s been so NICE to me and took care of my swollen ankles and everything, you’re saying that we can’t date because that would offend the gods?

Em: Exactly. If there’s anything in this world that’s certain, it’s that if you want to escape your fate, you’ll just have to remove all kinds of temptation, because this happening is just a freak accident. This household is not in the back woods where this sort of thing just happens.

Sid: All’s I’m saying, after all, is that if I’d gone on this journey a year ago, ran into her in her home town, and brought her back here my bride you wouldn’t have known anything until the banquet.

Em: Yeah, when my BROTHER shows up and turns out to also be my BROTHER-IN-LAW — enough, I absolutely forbid it!

Sid: Or, y’know, what if she had been given up for adoption at birth, or your brother might have been cuckolded, you know — that could have happened, right? Stranger things have happened in this world.

Em: But —

Sid: I never grew up with her or anything so you might have thought it was even natural to be a little attracted to my cousin once she was introduced — even you have to admit that she’s pretty hot.

Em: B —

Sid: And she’s so nice besides, who wouldn’t want her in the family?

Em: But that’s not the point! She’s already IN the family! Plus she doesn’t like you anyway — she said you keep following her around with that creepy simpering face — yes, that one!

Sid: So … so she’s not interested?

Em: Yes. So not interested.

Sid: But she said she loved me?

Em: No, I’ve told you a thousand times you don’t listen closely enough. She said “Here’s some olive juice for your bread.”

Sid: Not “Cheersome, I love you for eons ahead?”

Em: No.

Sid: Oh. Who the hell calls it olive juice anyway? Glad I dodged that bullet. And what kind of pillow talk pet name is “cheersome?”

Em: No, you didn’t …

Sid: No, no, just a daydream about the future — you know, the kids, waking up tomorrow next to —

Em: (hands on ears) DIDN’T HEAR YOU … WON’T …

Sid: Well, I guess this trip does make sense. Nothing good can come of me staying here …

Em: [Finally!] I’m just glad that you see my point. Plus it’ll do you some good to get out of here, spread your wings a little, sow your wild oats — not in your cousin, mind, we just sorted that bit out — see the world, experience life, find yourself out there.

Sid: OK. I guess I’d better go and get packed. Bye, mom, I love you.

Em: I love you too, Oedipus. Say hi to Jocasta and Laius for us when you see them. [Man am I glad that’s over — wouldn’t that prophecy have been AWKWARD to discuss with Polybus?]