Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cousins

If you're a Samoan kid, before you start school, you don't have friends. You have cousins. You have lots and lots of cousins, some of whom are older than you and have to look after you and whose conversations you'll want to hear so badly you go outside and listen outside their windows, some who are younger so you speak gibberish to the others so they don't know what you're talking about, and the ones who are the same age as you, with whom who fight the most but will still be playing cards and laughing with when you're both ninety.

Last week I got to hang out with a whole bunch of my cousins when one of them got married, and another when she visited from Melbourne. We don't play like we did when we were little, but mostly things haven't changed at all. The difference between friends and cousins is that whatever happens, you will always be in each others' lives; you have to be, so even when your relationship ebbs and it might make you sad, you can take comfort in the knowledge that it still exists. I've had ups and downs with all of my cousins, especially my cousin with whom I'm closest, and it really doesn't matter anymore; all that matters is what we do now. Some of my cousins are the offspring of people I think are terrible, which makes me love them more, and that reassures me; it makes me feel like things can grow from seemingly barren ground, and that those things can be beautiful. As I get older, I worry that without my parents my relationships with my extended family will become tenuous, but seeing my cousins makes me feel better about it. As long as they're related, there's a relationship; I just have to build it up.

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