In my life, I have grown to believe and have often said that there is a vast difference between relatives and family... and that soul is much thicker than blood. Well, as everyone's individual perspectives are shaped by their own unique experiences, this is the lesson I have drawn from my life's journey...
Recently however, I rediscovered my cousin Jennifer... ever a lovely person, just six months younger than me, Jenn is someone I have known pretty much as long as I've been alive and yet, I never had any idea that we had so much in common. I won't elaborate on our shared personality quirks, genetic flaws, and other fun stuff except to say that it was a pleasant surprise. For the fist time in my life, I didn't feel like such the black sheep, just a different shade of gray.
I remember oh so many afternoons playing together at Grandma's with Jennifer and her older sister Renee. One very distinct memory is Renee instructing us how to make a bird's nest in a Styrofoam cup scavenging the farm for straw and twigs and feathers (not surprisingly, Renee grew up to be a college professor). Growing up next door to Grandma, I knew the farm like the back of my hand and was always excited to show my two city cousins the new litter of baby feral kittens I found beneath the seat of the old pick up truck or such... We three spent a lot of time making mud pies, cakes, and cookies which Grandma always pretended to eat with joyous delight and it was not uncommon that we found ourselves in trouble with Granddaddy for digging holes under the carport.
Once, my dad took the three of us to WRAL's television studio and we met Charlie Gaddy who autographed a picture for us. Because he only signed one photo for the three of us, Renee and Jenn had offered to tear off my portion with my name on it to take home with me. (Interestingly, I met Mr. Gaddy again in 2002 at my daughter's graduation from the Charlie Gaddy Center for Children; he looked the same as he did twenty-something years ago... I think it's time he went into hiding before someone stakes him.)
I remember Jennifer's Strawberry Shortcake collection that sat atop her dresser; she always let me play with them when I visited.
Then there was our high school years, me in the country and Jenn in the city, when we were socially awkward and trying to figure out who we were in our own lives... I was the wild-card who wore too much make-up, spoke my mind, and came home drunk and Jenn, well she was always a good person who was always nice to everyone and secretly, I suppose envied her.
It's funny the things we store in our memories - the stuff that actually sticks. And now, a lifetime later, though it all seems like a blur, deep down in the sediment of my mind, there are still things that make me smile in spite of it all.
Jenn., originally uploaded by Luna Soledad.
"A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another."