Last weekend I reconnected with one of my first cousins … she’s a year older than I and is my father’s brother’s daughter. She just happens to live in the same neighborhood as my brother-in-law’s family where we’re staying while I’m being treated. How ironic is that? She’s just around the corner from them and we reconnected last Friday night over wine and pizza.
My father had another brother as well and he had a daughter who is a year younger than I. I haven’t seen that girl since we were about 12 years old. The three of us used to run all over the place at family functions. Three daughters of three brothers … all within two years in age. But those wonderful days didn’t last … my father’s family of origin was twisted as an old corkscrew.
My grandmother was a real piece of work and she passed that on to her three boys. They, in turn, propagated that on their daughters. We called our grandmother MaaMaa (probably spelled MaMa, but wanted to give you the right pronunciation … much like a sheep bleating) because she couldn’t bear to be called Gramma or whatever like that. She completely alienated our mothers and we no longer reunited as we had as children.
I knew all about my branch of the Patton tree’s special flavor of … well, shall we say … eccentricity. But I didn’t know about these other branches after we parted ways. So the third cousin came to town this weekend and we all reconnected and it was just wonderful! We laughed till our cheeks hurt . We shared our own flavors of eccentricity and found it all so interesting! It really left me with such a sense of bafflement (is that a word?) wondering what on earth happened in MaMa’s family of origin to twist her up as badly as she was. What happened to her? I saw, for the first time, pictures of her as a young woman and she was beautiful. Her eyes were so peaceful and serene … but I know from being raised by her son, that serenity and peace was the last thing going on behind those eyes. She had eight siblings, four of whom were brothers. I never knew she had brothers until this month because those sisters never spoke to those brothers. I met my great aunts back in the day, but didn’t even know I had great uncles. So what happened to you, Mama?
It has been such an amazing thing, spending time with these women and my favorite aunt, who is more spry than I, even though she is 30 years older! They are my family. Family that I haven’t known in years. And it feels so good to be back with them, in the South of my childhood, with all the Southern accents flying around! Good heavens, I’m even drawling like I never left! Of course, I’m the North Carolina girl … we’re a little tangy-er … a little more country than the genteel, Georgia Southern. Hide the silver, y’all … the country cousin’s in town! Oh, it is just so good!