Thursday, February 05, 2004

Meeting Cousins

When I was growing up in East Texas, "cousin" was an almost magical word which filled me with joyful anticipation. My grandmother would say something about my cousins coming, and I knew that fun was imminent. I had the potential for having as many as 68 to 86 first cousins. (The number varies because I'm never sure when to count stepchildren. The Texan in me tends to go for the higher number regardless of its sustainability. So if you over heard me at a cocktail party bragging about how many cousins I had, you heard 86. Then I modestly smile, and reduce the number by 4, allowing as my siblings are not cousins, although with so many cousins marrying cousins in our family, I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me that my sister was also my cousin. And we wonder why yankees make fun of us, bless their hearts.)

When I was growing up, I bet I had over a thousand cousins within a 100 mile radius. I'm using the Southern expanded definition of how many numbers you add before someone really isn't a relative anymore. For purposes of marriage, you're not supposed to marry closer than a third cousin. For purposes of loaning money, you stop at first cousin-once removed. That means you can probably loan the children of your first cousins money. All other cases are determined on an individual relationship basis. For purposes of attending funerals, it goes to about 4th or 5th. There aren't any hard and set rules, but for purposes of playing on the school ground and having a bully give you grief, it's as far out as a 10th-cousin and possibly more. We don't let people mess with us.

The internet has brought me contact with hundreds and possibly thousands of cousins in the 5th and 6th range. Now it's as if we all share backyard fences and can walk over and talk just about anytime we have something to say. Only you don't have to put on clothes to answer the door. Well so to speak, for chrissake. I'm not sitting here nekkid, but I don't have my shoes on and my hair's a mess. With each newly discovered cousin, though, comes a rush of pleasant anticipation. I just can't wait to meet them.

Maybe I'm just curious to see what they look like. There's a bond that's already there. All you have to do is uncover it, nourish it a little, and watch it bear fruit.

A couple of months ago, I drove to Huntington Beach, California to meet with a fourth cousin, once removed, Joan Williams-Harman. (She pronounces Joan as if it were spelled Joe Anne.) She is the ggggranddaughter of Mary Bunch who is presumed to be the sister of my ggggrandmother, Anna Bunch. The two sisters, children of Rhoda Mosely and Drury Bunch, married the two sons of Keziah Dial and James Ashworth, Aaron and Moses. That makes us really close the way I count cousins. Fortunately for me, she's one of those people that both get the picture and has a grasp on the details. She's fun to "speculate" with. (None of those snide yankee jokes about cousins speculating either.)

Joan taught school and was a librarian for enough years to now be retired. This is a picture of Joan:

So, Terry, Brenda, Linda, Michelle, Jeanne, Sharon and the rest of ya', the next time you see her name on a post or a comment, say hi to her. I've told her about each of you, so she knows you a little already, too.

No comments: