Monday, October 28, 2013

The family you have

The boy who sits next to E in second grade has the same surname as ours, although it isn't a common name. This prompted the teachers to speculate, before the school year started, that they must be cousins. They aren't but this speculation has reinvigorated the cousins conversation.

Our kids don't have cousins. That's how the branches on the family tree branched. They have cousin envy, watching friends with cousins have sleepovers and extended-family vacations. When you're a cousinless kid, cousins look like a constant party. It comes up more than you could imagine. I always tell them: I'm only in charge of the family I have. Maybe one day you'll have cousins. But I'm not the one who can make that happen for you. Enjoy the family you have.

It's why I always wanted three kids. I wanted our house to be a built-in party, and it is. The fact is, I grew up with ten cousins but I never saw them, scattered as they were across the country. The lovely husband's family was more close-knit, but he only has two cousins and as adults they aren't close at all. Having cousins wouldn't guarantee any more family hijinks than we already see daily. So I tell them. And on they daydream. It's forbidden fruit, a conjuring of what isn't, the ultimate in imagining.

I love eavesdropping on their fantasy-building, though. I have no regrets for a world I have no hand in conjuring, but what they don't realize as I smile is that they're not missing anything: they're playing together. They're scheming and giggling and inventing. The labels on their playmates don't matter. They have a built-in party, and it's the family they have.

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This post was inspired by The Dinner, a novel by Herman Koch. Two brothers and their wives sit down for a tension filled dinner to discuss their sons, the cousins, and some of their actions that will change the families' lives forever. Join From Left to Write on October 29 as we discuss The Dinner. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. Pin It