Today we had lunch with my cousin who lives in the Orlando area. I had not seen her since I don't know when--high school, maybe longer. Ever since we arrived in Orlando four months ago, my mother and grandmother have repeatedly asked me if I have yet been in contact with her. Finally I can say yes.
She's six years younger than I am, and one of nine children--yes, nine. She has two older sisters my age and two older brothers before her who I knew much better than her. They lived in Kansas, but we frequently made the trek from Nebraska for huge family gatherings with my mother's five siblings and their hordes of children (we were the smallest family with just four children).
I'm sure we thought she was a baby at that time and probably excluded her and the other little ones. But still she and I remembered many of the same fun things we did at our grandparents' farm like making the best haunted houses in the basement where we would drop sheets or fake bugs down the laundry shoot onto someone's head as the walked by. We played court, rode four wheelers and walked a mile into town by ourselves to buy penny candies and Cokes.
Her family lived on a dairy farm in the same small town (population 200 in a good year) as my grandparents and the rest of my mom's family. I grew up in the city. I used to love going to the farm and observing their life that was so different from mine. I always brought the new fads, the clothing trends and music they hadn't yet made the way down thier dirt roads.
And while I'm sure I felt and acted somewhat superior, I was also fascinated by parts of their lives. I so coveted their visits from the Schwan's man and couldn't believe how deprived I was without the treats and frozen foods that filled their freezer. I collected eggs from the chickens with my cousins, and we got to throw the cracked ones at the pigs. I know I cracked many on purpose. The pigs didn't care, especially as we yelled "Suey, Suey." I couldn't believe how the pigs would come running for that special word. And I couldn't believe how young they got to start driving cars--I swear they were like 10.
When we visited, my family stayed at my grandparents' farm, but each time I'd try to do a sleepover with my cousins. We had a great time eating Schwan's treats, playing games, telling stories and making crank calls. I remember having so much fun... until it was time to go to bed.
It would be well after midnight, and I'd be laying there in my sleeping bag. Then I'd go find my aunt or uncle, and we'd call my parents because someone had to come get me. I was scared--I don't know of what--but I knew I wouldn't be able to make it through the night. So my aunt and I would sit at the kitchen table until someone drove the 20 minutes there to get me. Then we'd drive the 20 miles back to my grandparents' farm where I fell asleep safely with my family nearby.
Every time I thought I'd grown up enough since the last to do it; that surely I wouldn't be scared this time. But each time I was. And my parents always let me go again and again and again. They never got mad; they just came and got me and let me keep trying. Thinking back, that's pretty cool.
And it wasn't just my cousins' house where I got scared. It was all slumber parties and sleepovers. I must have had some major separation anxiety. I don't remember how old I was when I first did make it over night--I think I was close to 10 or 11, much too old! I remember waking up in my friend's bed--she lived right across the street, and I could see my house from her bedroom window--we were both so excited and so proud of me. I had finally done it.
After that, I quickly grew out of my fear of leaving home and longed for anything that would take me away from my boring Midwestern existence. And eventually I found things that did. I've lived in D.C., Boston, Austin, Seattle and now Orlando. I've had a diverse career and met an amazing array of people. Thinking back to how scared I was to leave my house and my family seems so out of nature for me now, but maybe how I worked through it, and how my family helped me, is what made me feel secure doing so.
I started out thinking I was going to write this post about how strange it is that my cousin and I--and my other 35 cousins for that matter--could not be close, could go for years without talking or know what each other are doing; could live in the same city for four months without getting in touch. Because I can't imagine my brothers or sister having a child, and PB not being immersed in their lives forever. But I also know things change.
For now, I'm glad to have made a reconnection and to have briefly relived some of the fond memories I have of visiting the farm.