Speaking of Cousins

“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream,” or so the saying goes. So today (and each third Sunday in July) is National Ice Cream Day.

Some folks reading this are probably asking themselves, what does National Ice Cream Day have to do with cousins? If they keep reading, they’ll find out, won’t they?

One day as I wondered if there is any day recognizing cousins, I discovered more than I wanted to know. First, of course, there is a national holiday for cousins. But, in addition, there are numerous other national holidays; and some are not even on our calendars.

I think that society has gone way overboard with all its national holidays. There is a national day designated for nearly everything under the sun.

Animal lovers have National Love Your Pet Day on February 20. In addition, there is National Employee Appreciation Day (the first Friday in March) for people in the workforce. With the exception of two, hardly any of the national holidays that I mention in this post is a federally assigned holiday.

National Hot Chocolate Day is on January 31, National Pizza Day, February 9, and National Coffee Day is on October 1. (Fist pump for National Coffee Day!) The fourth Sunday in July (this year on the 25th) is National Parents Day.

There are also nationwide annual observances for families, like National Family Day on September 26, and who doesn’t know that Mothers and Fathers Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May and the third Sunday in June, respectively.

Grandparents have their day on the first Sunday after Labor Day. Aunts and Uncles get recognition on July 26. Siblings Day is on April 10, and February 4 is Nieces Day. Interestingly, I did not find a national day for nephews. But I did learn that there is a National Cousins Day, and thus, my effort was not in vain.

How about a shout-out to cousins. Some folks think that they are the closest things to siblings.

Like a friend of mine, some people have only one or two cousins. Depending on one’s extended family size, some have none. Others, like me, have so many first cousins, I couldn’t give a precise count of them if my life depended on it.

I have a large extended family. Each of my parents had at least nine siblings that I am aware of, and those siblings produced a tribe of children. (Need I say that was in the days before the birth control pill?) My cousins on the paternal and maternal side could probably fill all the seats in the Apollo Theater.

I don’t know all of my blood-relative first cousins (firsties) as much as I wish I knew. I can do reasonably well naming those in my age group; many of us grew up and played together. But some of their siblings – I wouldn’t know them if I bumped into them on the street, nor do I know many of my cousins’ children. My children and my cousins’ children are second cousins. Unfortunately, unlike many of my first cousins and me, a lot of our children don’t know each other. Only with the aid of a genealogical chart would I know some of my first cousins once or twice removed, second cousins and cousins further down the line. I fancy myself as an amateur genealogist but sometimes, trying to figure out who’s who in the family starts my head swimming in the gene pool.

As cousins go, I can name maybe twenty or thirty firsties on both sides of my family. Those would be the ones I grew up with, played with, and with whom I made memories. Give or take a few years; we are in the same age group. And as for my cousins’ children and grandchildren, I couldn’t identify their offspring any more than they could recognize mine. To its credit, social media has helped with this somewhat.

That’s why I believe that regular family reunions are so important; it helps family members bond with the current and younger generation of relatives and stay connected with the elders.

Friendship among cousins often develops when we are children, and sometimes that friendship extends into adulthood. On the other hand, some cousins who were not particularly close during childhood became close when they were grown. Many things contribute to the ongoing relationships between cousins, including similarities in age, how much contact there is between them, and how near they lived to each other.

After all, cousins run the gamut – crazy cousins, kissing cousins, close cousins, distant cousins, and even play cousins. And let’s not exclude cousins-in-law, the spouses of our blood cousins. Who understands the craziness of our family better than cousins? Sometimes cousins are closer than siblings and may even be best friends

One day I came across the following quote. I love it because it is so applicable to my generation of cousins, “A grandparents’ house is where cousins become best friends.” Indeed this was the case for many of my first cousins and me. Some of us rarely see or talk to each other anymore, but when we were youngsters, the grandparents’ house was where we often gathered during summer vacation, and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So, while many national holidays seem trivial to me, next Saturday, July 24, I must remember to give a shout-out to my cousins in recognition of National Cousin’s Day.

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