‘There’s no such thing as too many cousins’
I guess it’s the Silly Season. Newspapers in the UK are publishing pictures of baby Queen Elizabeth doing a mini Nazi Salute. The New York Times today featured a cover story on (yawn) Hilary Clinton’s Dad. And bloggers are publishing pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch.
Looks like summertime-desperation-for-readers has set in. I’m thinking that it’s the time of year when just about anything I write won’t be able to compete with the beach. The only thing worse for my stats would be if it were Christmas. Or if I wrote about the ding-dang South Pole again.
So here goes. Cousins. I worry, what with the trend to smaller families and all, that the whole Cousin Thing will be experienced by fewer and fewer in the future. The Child, for example, has seven Henry Cousins, five of whom are pictured at the top of this post. Of course that’s waaaay more than the measly three the Whitmores managed to eke out. From six siblings (!)
I mean, when I was a kid, we had cousins. The Petersons, who were Swedish and Lutheran and played Scrabble and drank coffee, produced this batch:
(Note that five of these Peterson Cousins are actually Henrys — my siblings and me. Those other kids didn’t stand a chance.)
Meanwhile, my Dad’s family, the Henrys, who were (mostly) French and Catholic and played poker and drank homemade plum wine, produced this batch:
See, the Henrys gathered mostly in the summer. Which meant the cousins were always running around outside and hard to capture in a photo. It’s practically impossible to line up, say, 40-some-odd kids who insist on climbing greased poles and riding farm carts down hills. Much less dress them in scratchy clothes.
Here’s another shot. Sorry for the poor quality; it’s Summer and I don’t have my scanner here. But you get the idea:
So what’s so cool about cousins? Well, if you’re lucky enough to have some, you already know. But in case you don’t, or would like to compare notes on cousinly highjinks, here are some of my fond recollections.
For one thing, since you didn’t see your cousins all that often, you didn’t get sibling-sick of them. And if you visited at their house, they had completely different toys. (I had two Henry Cousins named Jimmy. We called one Jimmy-with-all-the-toys because he was — gasp — an only child and had tons of cool toys. Stuff like tropical fish tanks and trampolines and electric trains and sock monkeys. Of course, he also had a Very Strict Dad who wouldn’t let him wear blue jeans. So there was that.)
For another thing, when you were with your cousins, that meant that the Parents were hanging out with the rest of the family. While they were busy playing poker (Henrys) and Scrabble (Petersons), pretty much nobody paid any attention to the kids. The adults kind of threw you all together and hoped for the best.
Apparently, this doesn’t happen that much anymore, more’s the pity. People write in to advice columns and ask about what to do because cousins who hadn’t seen each other in a long time were going to get together. Not to sound all curmudgeonly, but, in the Days of My Youth, parents didn’t fret about this; things just kind of sorted themselves out.
The Big Cousins would play tricks on the Littler Cousins. Like the time Ronnie and Richie got us to eat vanilla ice cream with green peppers. And the time they told my little brother Roger that raccoons were giant beasts who lived in the cornfield and would get him if he went in there. The worst, I think, was the time one of the Big Cousins (I won’t say who, because I think it was one of my brothers) called one of the Little Cousins from a phone extension in another room, and told the poor kid he was Santa. That he’d been watching him, he’d been very very bad, and was getting no toys that Christmas. Ouch. Maybe these newfangled parents have a point, after all.
Before I close, here’s another shot of the picture at the top of this post. As a reward for having read this far, you’ll see why the kids’ faces look all sort of weird and wrinkly:
One more July post to go, People. Stay cool out there. Oh, and speaking of cousins, if you can handle the heat, feel free to revisit my steamy story ‘The Incest Mug’.
Amagansett, New York. July 2015
15 thoughts on “Everybody into the Gene Pool”
I don’t have many cousins myself but my siblings are working on it. My son is an only and his cousin who is 2 years younger is like having a sister but better, I think. As always, love the pictures, Alice. 🙂
“My siblings are working on it” Genius! Yes, The Child is also (alas) an only. She too is very close to three of her cousins who, as good luck would have it, were all born in the same year. They grew up in CA, ME, WA, and NY, but when they get together, it’s like no time or distance has ever separated them.
I still like to tell the story of when I had both of them in the back seat and the inevitable, “She’s touching me!” was exclaimed. Later, I told him that is what having siblings is like and I heard less about wanting a baby brother after that… 🙂
Yes! There were five of us and ‘He’s touching me!’ was only surpassed by ‘He’s looking out my window!’ and my all-time fave ‘He’s breathing my air!’
Thanks again! I think you just inspired my next blog post ?
Love this post! Some of my best memories are with my cousins. Both my mom’s family and my dad’s were large which meant a lot of cousins for us. 🙂 I miss those big family get togethers!
Thank you, Lisa! Yes, I was just talking to The Dude about how ‘empty’ this summer has felt — no cousins!
We got together this summer with extended family, but the cousins hadn’t seen each other in so long that they didn’t really hang out together like I thought they would. 🙁 Oh well, I guess that means we’ll have to have more family get togethers!
I hear you on that, Lisa. I’m thinking I’ll start working on next summer right now (!)
Good idea! 🙂
Love it! I grew up with cousins and family reunions. We moved from our home state and gave a lot of that up. But also, like you said, family’s are smaller now. My brother and sister and one of Danny’s brothers didn’t have kids!
That was the way to grow up, right? With tons of cousins! I guess kids today don’t miss them if they never had them. Though I do think it’s a shame to miss out on all that Cousin Craziness.
You captured the cousin culture right on, Alice. I have lost touch with all my cousins, of which there are many, except for a couple of them, one of whom I used to babysit. We loved to go down and visit the country cousins who had no toys to speak of but had acres to roam.
Thank you, Judy! Yes, that Cousin Connection was so wonderful. I say ‘was’, because, like you, I have lost touch with many of mine as well. Interestingly enough, some are quite active on FB, but it’s not the same as being actually together and getting into mischief together! xox