Squeals of joy.
They are not the typical soundtrack for a funeral viewing.
But this was no ordinary viewing.
It was also The Meeting of the Second Cousins.
Growing up, I was very close to the first cousins on my maternal side. Bret and Amy were sandwiched between my sister and me in age. At one point every year, our ages transformed into stair steps: ages 8, 7, 6, 5, until one of us reset the cycle again.
The majority of our bonding took place at my grandparent’s.
We remained very close until they moved away during middle school, but continued to meet up for holidays and special occasions.
Then we scattered around the United States. Some of us had children.
Suddenly our schedules never fit.
My sister and brother have yet to reproduce. This means my children are unlikely to have first cousin bonding like I did.
But there is hope.
Their second cousins—Bret’s boys.
The problem? They live on the north end of I-35 in Minnesota. We live on the south end in Texas.
It is one hell of a drive.
Until last weekend, I had never met their second child, even though he is almost four. Their oldest, now six, I met once before he turned a year.
My G-pa obviously thought this had to be remedied.
I watched Lil Diva and The Tackler (who was a baby the last time) meet their cousins.
Adults gathered and talked about my G-pa, eating stale cookies while giggles peppered the room. Lil Diva ran laps with Lil B around the funeral home (we had it to ourselves). They hid themselves in the wall space where the curtain divider retracted into a deep hidey-hole.
They chased, colored pictures, and laughed.
My G-pa would have approved.
They spent the next day together with not one, but three baby-sitters (long story) while Bret, my sister, my brother and I spoke at G-pa’s funeral (and Amy skyped in from New York and spoke via DVD recording—all hale the wonders of technology).
I have no idea what shenanigans occurred during this time.
The real party started afterward.
What better way is there to celebrate my G-pa’s life, than to hit a hotel waterpark with his great-grand-children?
The Tackler commandeered the pirate ship. Lil Diva waded for an hour, happily babbling to herself while Lil B wore himself out and The Eldest raced down the water slide. The Eldest and The Tackler hammed it up for the camera and just had to see what Bret and I found so fascinating about the hot tub.
Then it was time.
Lil Diva decided The Eldest had the right idea and climbed the steps to the big waterslide.
She watched The Eldest sit on Bret’s lap, smile reaching to his ears as they pushed off.
It was enough for her.
She climbed onto my lap as the water rushed around us and I pushed off.
Squeals pierced the air of “eeeeeeeeeeee!” the entire way down.
I’m told her grin when we splashed was epic.
“Mommy, I want to go again.”
For the next 40 minutes, we joined The Eldest and Bret on the big water slides—racing each other down to the bottom.
My aunt had a tiny camera and took a few videos.
They pretty much say it all.
Meanwhile, The Tackler continued to swim around the pool, four other adults keeping an eye on him. Because while he is a crazy kamikaze child, he has to be the one in control. He will climb playground equipment high on the outside, and bike at full speed—because he has the power.
Put him on a roller coaster or waterslide where he is at the mercy of something else—and suddenly his bravado is gone.
Lil Diva has no such fear. She will ride things her brother shies away from. She will beg to go faster on a tire swing while he yells “Slow down!”
She and The Eldest bonded over their love of waterslides. The Tackler and The Eldest bonded over pirate ships and board games. Lil Diva and Lil B bonded over tag and hide-and-seek, even though I’m told he typically doesn’t like to play with girls.
Just a few days ago, my cousin’s wife told me,
“I have to share that The Eldest asked (this morning) if The Tackler’s dad could get a job up here so that you guys could move to Minnesota. I said I didn’t know, that his dad has a good job in Texas, but maybe someday. I love that they had so much fun together.”
Thank you, G-pa, for reminding us why cousins are important.
* * *
Did you ever play with your cousins? Do your kids?
I have a lot of cousins, about 30 I believe. The funniest thing about family gatherings is how you can strike up a conversation with anyone and bond immediately. I feel a little old to play with my cousins, but in different times through childhood, I had different cousins that were special to me. Now that we’re all older, I still feel closer to those I had a special connection with.
I have a ton of cousins — there are 33 of us if you count both sides. But we’re a pretty close knit family. We were very close with my mom’s sister’s kids growing up. And even though both my dad’s parents died when I was in law school, I still see many of my cousins on that side almost every Christmas. It makes me sad that my kids won’t have that. They have lots of second cousins but my brother swears he will never reproduce and their cousins on Albert’s side are in California so we only see them once a year.
I’d argue that funerals are the perfect place to hear laughter & giggles . . . they’re for the living, to celebrate the life that brought you there. They’re sad, sure, because that life is no more – but the celebration part is quite important. I hope, if there is a silver lining to your grandfather’s death, beyond just a treasure-trove of memories, it’s that the second cousins get together more often . . . though I don’t know if the world is ready for that level of cute & awesome at this point.
I’m quite close to one cousin, on my dad’s side . . . and that’s it. There are other cousins, surely, but there were five of us all born relatively close in age (Benjamin, me, Joey, Tommy, and my sister, Jessica), and then, far later, two more came . . . I’m still close with Joey (who is only a few months younger than me), but his daughter has almost 8 years on my kids, so the second-cousin gatherings aren’t quite as momentous. However, my own sister lives close to me, has two kids (one 6 months older than CJ, one 18 months younger than Leila), so I’m quite hopeful that my grandkids will have great second-cousin gatherings.
You know, when I’m 200, because my kids won’t date until they’re 40, but modern medicine is wonderful.
This sounds like a wonderful way to remember that even when sad things happen, good things are always there. My one and only cousin is quite a few years younger than me but we were very close when she was little… we are still in touch but with the great big ocean between us it’s not always so easy. Thank goodness for Skype!!!!
I got to hang out with a few of my paternal cousins when I was very young, but they fell out of my life with my dad. I am just now coming to know my maternal cousins (thanks to the blog!). My own son visits his cousins a couple of times a year, coupled with Skype visits. I hope they grow up close in heart.
I’m so sorry about your grandfather, but so glad that some close family bonding came of it.