Here’s an interesting tidbit about me. On my father’s side, I have 32 first cousins. Yes, that’s right. My grandparents had six children. Between them, they produced 36 grandchildren – me, and my three siblings, and thirty -two others.
What’s this have to do with anything? Well, today at Love Is In Da Blog, Bee prompts us to write about aunts, uncles, and/or cousins.
Most of these cousins are older than me – my father was the fifth of those six children, and his oldest sibling, my Uncle Leo (a former firefighter, and a lot nicer and more fun than Jerry’s Uncle Leo on Seinfeld), is twelve years older. The effect was that Uncle Leo’s youngest child was the age of my older brother, eldest in our family. I barely knew one of the older children until I was a teenager. I played with several second cousins just a few years younger than me.
Most of my cousins grew up far away – many in South Carolina, some in Virginia. I saw them on occasion, growing up, for days at a time, so I knew them well enough to carry on conversations and play with, but not well enough to ever feel – well, casual, I guess – around them.
But we had a helper, in my Grandpa Foster.
For all of our childhoods, Grandpa would take Super Eight silent films as he traveled from family to family, with my grandma until she died when I was nine, and then alone. The main attraction, when he came to have dinner with us, was to have his movie screen set up in the living room after we ate, and it was dark enough for the movies. We’d watch the films as he ran the projector, and it was a huge honor to be asked to be his assistant.
We’d watch the movies of our cousins living their lives, showing off new toys, new skills, new clothes, new teeth…sharing their favorite things. There’d be new movies and old favorites. They’d be spooled together, their families merging with ours, hodgepodge, the way sprawling families get all tangled up together. And, because I saw bits and pieces of their lives in this way, and because my grandfather almost always narrated, I felt that I knew them.
Other times, he’d bring the camera, and something upon which to write the date, and he’d film our lives-of-the-moment, and I could imagine my cousins somewhere far away, watching the movies when it was their turn.
There was an air of magic and mystery to the whole process.
Decades have passed since my grandfather died in 1987, the same year I graduated. Many of my cousins were already adults by then, living their own lives, and, as time passed, we gradually lost touch without the cohesive force he had provided –
The Internet has reconnected me with several of my cousins. It’s a little like those old movies. I get to peek into bits of their everyday lives. I get to know them in a new way. But, this time, they have control of what they share….
And I can share what I want of my life, too…
I think my Grandpa would be very happy about that. =)
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