I am an only child. This had several advantages when I was growing up. Ours was a peaceful home with no fighting. My mom says she remembers the first time we were visiting family where the siblings were arguing, as siblings tend to do. I was really little and she said I had this amazed look on my face trying to figure out what was going on. Other advantages are that I didn’t have to share the back seat with anyone on road trips, I got a heftier allowance than most of my friends, and I always had my own bedroom.
There are disadvantages, though. There is that companionship and camaraderie that having brothers or sisters may bring. Teammates that have your back and walk through life together. I realize that this isn’t the case in every situation, but I’d seen it enough growing up to know it was there.
Thankfully, though I don’t have actual sisters or brothers, I have lots of cousins that are as close to siblings as I will ever have. They are my pseudo-siblings.
On my dad’s side, I got to spend a lot of time with my cousins when I was younger. We lived in the same area and every Sunday after church, we all congregated at my aunt’s house for Sunday Dinner.
Sunday Dinner is an institution here in the South, as I hope it is in other places. The menu isn’t diverse, but that creates a strong sense of comfort food. The conversation rarely changes, and for us ranged from sports to a summary of our week to politics. This group held similar views, so discussions led to emphatic “Mmm hmm!” responses and not arguments. At one point, my dad bought a mini motorcycle for me that we kept at my aunt’s house. When we’d finished eating, we kids would make a beeline for the barn to take turns riding it around the pasture. I think I still have every inch of that pasture memorized. These weekly times together built a strong foundation with these cousins that helped us stay connected and made for sweet reunions after we’d moved away.
On my mom’s side, I have many more cousins than on my dad’s. Mom was one of 6 children and reunions with this side of the family were less frequent but not less special. I was the youngest of the group so I looked up to each of my cousins when we got together. I can’t remember every single Sunday Dinner with my dad’s family, but have a memory of just about every holiday or gathering with mom’s family. There was the time that they played Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” while we talked; this became the first album I remember buying. There was the time they gave me a set of Judy Blume books for Christmas, and I spent the rest of the visit in a different room immersed in this new world. There were the evenings that the cousins would entertain the adults with magic tricks, singing, or other performances.
Proverbs 18:24 says “…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Particularly as someone who didn’t have brothers and sisters, cousins are so much of the good around me. No matter how close or contentious the relationship siblings had growing up, they serve as a fellow witness to your childhood. I am grateful for my cousins who know my parents as well as I did. Who have a shared memory of such special times in my childhood. I am grateful for these cousins who stick to me like a sibling.