Friday, January 9, 2009

Cousins

I met up with a couple of “long lost” second cousins the other day. I’d been looking forward to this reunion for several weeks and was very excited about it. And I thought sure there would be a terrific blog post immediately coming to mind after the reunion. I even anticipated beginning that process on the Metro while riding back to DC from our lunch. But, surprisingly, I had no immediate desire to blog about it.

I think I needed time to digest it.

And so I have. And here’s what I think:

First, I think I have some awesome cousins!

I last saw Jimmy (my apologies, Jim – you will forever be “Jimmy” to me) when we were in high school. That’s about 35 years ago. Truthfully, I would not have known him if Karen hadn’t said to me, “That’s Jim.” But when he opened his mouth to speak, I finally saw the resemblance to the boy I’d known. We’ve both had lots of life experiences in the 35 years that have gone by. Jimmy’s life certainly agrees with him and it is always a great joy to see that in someone. He did a five-year stint in the Navy after high school, got married, went to college, had a couple of kids, and now he hangs out in the swamps of Virginia (okay, he’s a distinguished “wetlands biologist” – but wetlands are swamps to me).

I am in awe of Karen. She has homeschooled all five of her children and she’s done it thoughtfully and well. She grinds her own wheat. And she’s a grammar nut (said with much affection) who writes with considerable grace and elegance. I know that because I keep up with her blog. I last saw Karen about 18 years ago at a family function in New Jersey that neither of us can actually remember – except we know that we were both there, she with her youngest baby and me with my 6-year old daughter (both of whom are named Abigail, by the way). Cannot, for the life of me, remember what kind of function we were attending! Anniversary? Memorial service? Funeral? Have no idea (very sad, that).

The second thing that I think is this: there is something that is not tangible but is nevertheless very comforting and real about families. I can’t attribute it just to DNA because I’ve seen firsthand how adopted children can be part of a family so completely that the DNA doesn’t matter. In other words, “nurture” is just as powerful as “nature” and plays just as great a part in what makes a family. Part of this indefinable something, I think, is that we three cousins grew up in the same State, in the same general area, at the same time, and so we were shaped by the same society. And part of it is that we are, in fact, descended from the same family culture. Each family is unique in the way they live – Jim, Karen and I are products of that same experience.

We have some of the same ways of speaking. We have some common viewpoints (and many that diverge, too). I can hear echoes of our parents and grandparents in the ways that we look at life. We have ranged far and wide in our adult lives and have been out of touch with each other for a very long time, but when we sat down together there was a unique feeling of home that just cannot come from anywhere else. I’ve blogged about home before. Being reunited with my cousins reminds me again of who I am; they are part of the experience that formed me. They are unique and interesting individuals. I hope and pray they will continue to be part of my life’s journey.

- Catherine

2 comments:

bensrib said...

That's exactly what I told Ben when I got home that night! I said, "She just really FITS with our family! It's so amazing that we haven't been together in so many years, but she's so much part of the family. She's just LIKE us!" I definitely see Aunt Mary and Aunt Ethel in you. It was fun--Ben says next time you come we need to get the whole family together.

Catherine said...

I'm hoping we can make Jim's idea of an April reunion come true. I'd really like to meet the rest of your family!