Sharon Randall: Cousins make families fun

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 8, 2022

By Sharon Randall

Family ties are formed in various ways.

Some are connected by blood. Others are created by choice. But the best ones are bound together by love.

Charlotte and Henry live hours apart and barely know each other. About the only thing they have in common (besides being 10 years old, seriously cute and incredibly smart) is this: Some years ago, Charlotte’s grandpa and Henry’s nana fell in love and decided to get married.

I’m that nana. My husband is Papa Mark. Our marriage formed a “blended” family that includes us, our children (my three, his two), their spouses, and nine grandchildren, so far.

Some of us live close by, others are miles away. We all try to get together at least once a year, usually for Thanksgiving. Yet somehow, it’s not always possible. Funny, isn’t it, how quickly a year goes by?

Recently, my husband’s son and his wife brought Charlotte and her brother and sister (Archer is 5, Beatrix is 3) to visit us. We all went out to dinner with my daughter and Henry and had to sit at a long table that made it hard to talk, even for big talkers like us.

Charlotte and Henry sat across from each other barely speaking until Papa Mark made them laugh. He’s good at that. Then, the food showed up and we all talked and laughed for an hour.

Bea climbed up in my lap and said, “I have something that’s very, very exciting to tell you!”

“What is it?” I said.

And she whispered, “I love you!”

I felt like nana of the year.

The next day, Charlotte asked me, “What’s the difference in first and second cousins?”

I wasn’t sure how to explain it, but I tried. Then, she asked, “Is Henry my second-cousin?”

“No,” I said. “Technically, you are cousins by marriage. Papa Mark and I got married, so we get to share you. But cousins are just cousins, the way family is family and friends are friends. They’re not firsts or seconds. They’re just people we love.”

She smiled. Then, I told her a story about me and my cousins.

My mother’s parents had 10 children, all married, some more than once, and 22 grandchildren. Our big, crazy family gathered at their home most every Sunday to smoke and joke and argue and eat fried chicken, corn on the cob and banana pudding. It was good.

After we ate, the girl cousins sat on the steps singing hymns and laughing at the boy cousins who ran around the yard trying to kill each other with sticks. It felt a lot like Heaven on Earth.

I wish you could’ve seen us.

The point of that story is this: A good family is the gift of a lifetime. And cousins can make family life a whole lot more fun.

Charlotte laughed at my story, especially the part about the boy cousins. Then, she told me all about her neighborhood.

It’s a lovely community of homes built along a winding creek where in summer families float on inner tubes, stopping along the way to share a drink or a meal with their neighbors.

“I have so many friends who live there,” Charlotte said. “And we do so many fun things.”

I watched her face light up as she talked about their Fourth of July parade, trick-or-treating on Halloween, parties at Christmas, riding bikes and sharing stories. She and a few kids her age even formed their own book club.

I’ve seen that same excitement in my other grandchildren when they talk about their friends — going to sleepovers (where no one sleeps), playing in the park or chasing each other around somebody’s back yard.

They don’t have 22 “real” cousins. But they have friends who feel like cousins, and a few cousins-by-marriage who make family gatherings more fun.

Best of all, they have a big, crazy blended family that is bound together by love.

And we hardly ever try to kill each other with sticks.

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or at