Monday, November 5, 2012

We Are Family

This photograph intrigued me as a kid.  Taken on an Easter morning in the late 1950s, it captures my mother and my mother’s mother and cousins whom I never knew as bow-tied, suspendered, frilly-dress wearing children but who, as adults, played big parts in my own childhood.  I used to ask my mom who was who.  “That’s Stephen, and Bill but not Bill Schellhardt, Bill Knuttel, and that’s Bobby and Nanny’s holding Jimmy…” and my mom would name each one and in my mind I would pair up my cousins’ adult faces with their child faces. 

Then we would get to the two little girls whom I didn’t know.  “That’s Gaby and Gitte,” my mom explained.  “They’re cousins too.”  And she would attempt to explain the familial lines that related me to them.    

In a family in which distinctions have never really been made as to who was once removed, who was a second, or who was five times removed and adopted by Great-Grandpa's half-sister…in a family in which cousins are just cousins – although never kissing – whatever the degree of separation, I couldn’t believe that there were cousins whom I didn’t know; cousins whom I didn’t see at weddings and funerals and on Christmas Days and New Year’s Days and, oh yes, on quite a few Easter mornings of my own childhood. 

Then last year, in one of those weird coincidences of fate – proof that the universe ripples in ways you never quite expect – one of those little girls sent a message to my mom – and a little bit of what was lost, was found again. 

And so on Saturday, this photograph sat perched on top of my parents’ television while some of those children (and a few others), all of whom are now grown and who have children and grandchildren of their own now, gathered for a feast of food and family. 

And I finally got to meet my couins Gaby and Gitte!  (who are technically my third cousins twice removed...or something like that!)

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