Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Cousin Is A Ready Made Friend for Life

"A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost."
Author: Marion C. Garretty

I spent most of the late morning today on the phone with my cousin Donna.  We hadn't had a long conversation for several months.  She'd been out of state, and I'd been working.  There hasn't been time for lunch or a long chat.  We had a lot to catch up on, and so we did.  I am so reminded of the quote above whenever we are together.  She truly is a little bit of my childhood that can never be lost.

Donna, my cousin who is and was my ready made friend for life,was born in the same hospital, the old Bethel Hospital in Colorado Springs, just days after I was.  She says that her mother took over the same room my mother had just vacated to take me home when she was born.  Our earliest days were spent together.  We learned to walk, to talk, to ride bikes, to fix our hair, to cook, to do just about everything together.  I barely have a childhood memory that does not have her in it.  Most early photos of me include her in the photo.

We lived within a few blocks from each other.  Our church, our school, our grandmother, the grocery store and the drugstore were all located in that four block sphere of our early existence.

The photo above was taken on our first Easter.  My mother and I are on the left side of the photo.  My brother is in the center.  My Aunt Katherine and my cousin Donna are on the right side.  The photo is taken in the front yard of my grandmother house.  Across the street (you can't see it) is the church where our parents were married and where we went to church.  Next to the church was the school where we attended just as our parents had done before us.

I remember many birthday parties, and family trips to the mountains together.  We picnicked  in the Garden of the Gods together, and scurried up the side of sandstone bluffs together on childhood picnics to Austin Bluffs.  We played for hours in the stream where we built dams when we went camping to our favorite camping spot in the Colorado Mountains.  We called this place, "The Green Spot."  Oh how we loved this idyllic spot where we slept under a beautiful canopy of a sky filled with millions of beautiful stars.  It was here where we tried to pick up the radio station KOMA 101 out of Oklahoma City from the car radio parked at our family camping spot when we were teenagers.

We spent endless summer days playing at our grandparents summer house in Victor, Colorado.  That was a magical place that fed our childhood play acting where we pretended to be pioneers.  All the cousins slept together in the back bedroom where we giggled ourselves to sleep at night.  Or, other times we would try to scare each other with ghost stories.

Other long summer afternoons were spent swinging on the front porch of her house watching the rain come down while we told stories or talked.  Other times, we would go to the library to check our beloved Little House on the Prairie books.  Or, we would play kick the can at night at my house.  Our summer night treats would be homemade root beer that my father would make.  He would bottle his root beer in old beer bottles.  We loved sitting on the front porch drinking from those bottles in hopes we would shock the neighbors!  Or, we would make ourselves wonderful root beer floats and decorate them with olives.  (Yuk!)  We even ate off the same cookie the day before she came down with the chicken pox.  For some reason, I didn't get sick.

When we were in junior high, we walked to school together.  Those were the days when girls wore bouffant skirts.  Our nylon net slips were starched in sugar water and layered under our full skirts.  We suffered for beauty's sake at school.  Those slips were scratchy!  Then, we'd slip them off and carry them home because we couldn't bear walking the long distance in those uncomfortable things.  Perhaps, we only did this once because when our mother's found out, we weren't allowed to do such a thing again.

We experimented with make up, drooled over Seventeen magazine's fashionable clothes, checked the top ten pop tunes every week, or watch American Bandstand together during our early teen years.  We wore our first formals together when we joined Rainbow Girls.

On the way home from junior high, there was a drugstore with an old-fashioned soda fountain.  We'd stop in there to buy a fountain made cherry coke on our home so we could ogle the handsome, soda jerk who had beautiful blue eyes as he prepared our drinks for us.  Later in life, my cousin took me to a pharmacy in town so I could see our childhood crush.  Now, a pharmacist, he was still working in a drug store, but I wondered what we had seen in him back then.

We went to kindergarten through ninth grade together.  We went to college together.  We married and both had five children.  In our early adult years we did not live near each other.  Nearly twenty-five years ago, I returned to Colorado Springs where she was still living.  She found me a house to live in just about a block from her house.  Our Uncle Charles was just a block away.  Our children went to school together.  Then she moved to Phoenix shortly after.

Now, we live near each other again.  We now do such things as talk about how to apply for medicare or adjust to retirement.  I guess you can say we've come full circle.  Only my mother and an aunt remain of the old guard.  All our aunts and uncles and grandparents are gone.  I think at this juncture in life,  we tend to treasure our cousins more than ever because they join us in keeping a part of our childhood alive.

Donna & Sally's First Family Christmas
Donna is held by my Aunt Katherine and her father Uncle Don is holding Aunt K.  My grandmother is is beside my mother who holds me.  My Uncle Charles, home on leave from being a paratrooper in WWII, is holding his wife Betty.  In front are my Aunt Carolyn and Aunt Phyllis.  Phyllis is holding my brother Rell.  My father, serving in the Army and my Uncle Bob serving in the Marines, were not home on leave when the photo was taken.

A few years ago we went to San Diego together for a week.  We had such fun.  I'm so glad we did that.  New memories were made.  Just the two of us were able to have some new adventures and recall the old ones.

Donna and Sally
San Diego
Donna, though technically a cousin, is not just a dear friend, she is like a sister to me.  She is now walking through the difficult task of helping to care for her daughter who is fighting a two-year long battle with melanoma.  She listens to me as I talk about my daughter's death and illness.  We are navigating difficult waters together.  We are in places we never could have imagined in our carefree childhoods, but I am grateful we forged those bonds long ago because they seem even more priceless than ever before as we get older.


dian said...

This made me cry. Love you, Sally.

Linda said...

A wonderful and thoughtful post. I wish I'd had such a cousin. Instead I am an only child that no one ever dreamed would happen, much younger than my cousins. What a treat for you to have this special cousin.

becca said...

how cool my neice was born on my son's third birthday which i thought was cool they now share birthday as well as family

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

It's wonderful that you have had such a close and lasting relationship. Beautiful post.

Kay said...

This is such a beautiful post. You have truly been blessed.

I don't have a cousin that I had such a close relationship since childhood, but I'm getting to know them better now that we've moved back to Hawaii. We have shared roots, and that bond is a special one.

I loved that happy photo of you and Donna at the end. How wonderful to have a life together as much sisters than anything else.

Linda Myers said...

How lucky for you, to have a cousin you're close to! My dad was a military officer, so we moved around a lot when I was growing up. I have a couple of girl cousins about my age, but rarely saw them. In the last year, through Facebook, I have reconnected with one of my cousins, and we have seen each other a few times. She says, too, she wishes she'd had close-by family when she was growing up.

Thank you for sharing your cousin Donna with us.

DJan said...

What a wonderful and thoughtful post. I have such a relationship with my sister, two years younger than me. But we didn't raise our children next to each other, with my chaotic life and her stable one. Now, however, it's just like we had never been apart, sharing our differences and similarities with each other as much as we can. Your cousin Donna will always be a blessing and I so much appreciate learning about that aspect of your life.

Mare said...

What a wonderful account of the ups and downs of a lifelong friendship! Truly one of life's great treasures! Some of your childhood memories brought back some of mine. Nice journey!

Olga said...

How fortunate you are to have such a relationship in your life. A beautiful post.

KathyA said...

What a blessing for both of you!!

PS I'm sending this to my cousin!!

gayle said...

What a beautiful story! I too have cousins that I love and have fond childhood memories of. Just wish we didn't live so far apart. I am writing the quote at the top down to remember!

Nat said...

It's lovely that you have a cousin that is such an important person to you. I enjoyed the photos and stories of your young days :-)

#1Nana said...

You are fortunate to have such a long standing relationship with your cousin. I love the picture you paint of your childhood...a world of family and neighborhoods that I don't think exists anymore.

I hope you write about Rainbow...I always wondered what went on in that cult-like organization. (Just kidding about the cult part!)

Vilisi@islandmusings said...

I so enjoyed reading this BEAUTIFUL story. :) Thank you.

Cape Cod Kitty said...

How lovely, Sally, and thank you for sharing those fascinating family history memories. To have this bond is truly one of life's most valuable gifts. I am sure you are of immeasurable comfort to your dear cousin right now. May her daughter be successful in her battle with melanoma!

Grandmother said...

What a lovely tribute to this long-term relationship and how it has sustained you both. You reap the rewards of closeness and support in life's ups and downs. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Barb said...

Hi Sally, The memories of your childhood brought back similar memories of my own growing up years on the East coast. I, too, wore the "crinoline" under my skirt - I could hardly sit down it was so bouffant and itchy! What were you thinking putting olives on a root beer float? That sounds pretty yucky. My own cousin and I would dunk potato chips in coffee before eating them (and drinking the salty, greasy coffee at the end) - gosh, I feel kind of sick just thinking about it!

Deb Shucka said...

What gifts you are to each other! This is such a wonderful story. I agree about cousins. I have one I didn't get to meet until early adulthood, and we've been best friends since. We often wonder how our lives might have turned out if we'd been allowed the comfort of each other's company as children.

The picture of the two of you on vacation radiates joy.

I'm sorry to hear about her daughter, and in awe that there is one more thing you'll walk through together.

Jeanie said...

I loved reading this, Sally. I'm an only child and so my cousins were my brothers and sisters, particularly one family with whom, like you, I spent a good deal of time. That bond remains to this very day. Our conversations are always wonderful and we are more than family. We are friends. It's simply wonderful.

Donna is fortunate indeed to have someone to share her heart with who understands the struggles of loss -- and I know you were lucky to have her as well.

I loved your Easter pic. So cute!