Thursday, May 31, 2012


There is a wall post on Facebook that says "Cousins are our first friends," I wonder how many people really have that experience anymore. I got to thinking about this because I have been in contact with four of  my cousins this month: one by phone, one in person, and two on Facebook. It's a record!

A rare day with lots of cousins!
I didn't grow up with cousins nearby - I had fourteen on my mom's side but they were scattered from Colorado to Texas to Cameroon, West Africa. We were rarely, if ever, all together. My dad was an only child so none at all on that side of the family. It's both interesting and exciting to me that as we are aging some of us are becoming more interested in getting to know one another.

I think it has something to do with context. We are starting to wonder how we got to where we are, and that involves getting to know where we came from. One of the cousins I talked to this month works with immigrant children. The church where I work has an Indonesian Fellowship meeting on the premises. We compared notes on the immigrant experiences we observed and wondered together about our common immigrant great-grandparents, and their children, our grandparents, and how much their first generation experiences mirrored the ones we were seeing around us.

The faith context is evident as well. Though we have had very different "church" experiences, the faith of our common ancestors has filtered through the generations and is also a context we share and compare. Our common grandmother was determined that we would all be together in heaven. Knowledge of how important that was to her has probably influenced more than one of us to seek the Lord, or to turn to God in times of trouble.

Each of the cousins carries part of our genetic heritage. This one has the height from that branch of the family. This one has hair just like so-and-so. That one looks so much like Uncle X it is amazing. "Well you know I got this nose from Grandpa Y." We can also learn of shared health histories - things we may not even know about when we are so scattered.

Time can be measured in cousins too. Stories are often "dated" by who had been born that year. Photos can be assigned to a specific Christmas based on who is or isn't present in the picture. Each birth was an event; every new marriage helped place events in time.

The number one subject of all our conversations though is our parents. Though they are nearly all gone now, we still talk about them. We exchange stories about each other's parents that we heard from our parents, and stories they told about themselves as children that featured their siblings who grew up to be our cousin's parents. We also see our parents through our cousin's eyes, which is often enlightening too. It is fascinating.

Parents are important. Kids care deeply about knowing their parents. Keeping up with cousins supports that. So tell your kids stories about your sisters and brothers, even if you don't get to spend time with them. Help your kids feel as if they know their aunts and uncles and grandparents. It will help them relate to their cousins. Share family history, both good and bad, without judgment. Give your children a larger context to fit into.

Love transcends all generations. Love binds us together. And ultimately, it is love that connects us to the source of all love - God. Cousins are one more place to look for love, and most likely find it!

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