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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

For the Love of a Cousin

By Marcy Belson

I have been sorting the old photos from my infancy, childhood and teenage years. Mostly, the photos show me and my cousins - and there were many cousins during my years in Imperial Valley and summers spent in the Laguna Mountains in a family cabin.

There's a shot of me and Katie (actually, Kay Ilene) dressed in crepe paper, Hawaiian hula skirts, made by my mother. We were wearing a crepe paper flower tucked behind our ears.

Katie and her brother, George, and their parents and grandparents moved from Oklahoma to the Valley. They purchased a dairy farm in the country with a house and acreage. I was a frequent visitor and thought it was a treat to go into the cow barn and watch the milking process and the milk being readied for the big metal containers.

Kay is two years younger than I and her brother George was my age. As cousins, we met and had an immediate friendship because we were family and we were the closest in age.

I was related to about 30 people in our town and many of them lived close enough that I could walk or ride my bike to visit. Which I did on a regular basis. I had meals with them, stayed overnight if my parents needed a sitter for me. If they were related, the adult females were "aunt" and the men "uncle.” All of the children were cousins, I didn't know the difference between first cousins and second cousins and such.

It seems like Kay and George were always a part of my life but I think Kay was seven years old and George nine years when they moved to California. We went to the cowboy shows at the Saturday matinees. We learned to fish in the canals and at the mountain lakes. We celebrated every holiday together. Most weekends, we spent time together with a sleep over at one of the homes.

Kay and I had shoe boxes filled with paper dolls we had cut from the old Sears Roebuck catalogs. We had a "Polly Pigtails Club" and met every week to play games and eat cookies provided by my mother.

I remember Kay and me early one winter morning backing up to the fireplace in our nightgowns and robes. Kay's robe caught fire and she ran through the house. My mother caught her, wrapped her in a small rug and rushed to the bathroom, turned the water on in the tub and put her in it. She wasn't hurt, but it was scary.

We moved to Arizona and Kay visited. I was 13 and growing tall and wide. Kay was 11 years and a slim, trim girl.

Living in different states, we saw less and less of each other during those years and we grew apart. I married and started a family while Kay went on to college and became a teacher, with a busy life.

Now, in our older years, we are close again. She calls me every week. We laugh and talk about our family and the fun we had together. We also talk about our grandmothers who were sisters. They talked on the phone every morning, long conversations about the family. Those women would smile to know that we are now having the same conversations and we remember the good times with them.

There was a short period of time when we were children that created the bond which gives me great comfort now.

I am an old child, but I have been blessed with wonderful cousins and family. When my friends talk about their unhappy childhoods, I know how lucky I am to have the memories of a big family in a small town.

Katie and I have the same memories, we remember every wedding, funeral, secret and tragedy.

Mostly, we love each other.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


This is so interesting....I really don't talk much to my cousins now. But my father, who is 95, is acutely aware of which of his cousins are still alive. They are important to him. Interesting piece!

Thank you, Beth, for your comments. I think it is being an only child that makes me need a close relationship with my cousins.

Thank you Marcy for sharing! Your story is so touching ang is written very skillfully. I really enjoyed reading it.

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