One of my favorite stories ever.
|The last time I had most of my father’s family in the same room was Thanksgiving a few years back. This was the first time I realized both how much I wanted to be like my cousins, and how much I already was. I am the youngest by about ten years, and have always held them up as the adults I want to be associated with. They are still young enough to not be set in their ways.
There was B in his early thirties, recently divorced, his immediate family’s moderator as it were, occasionally butchering his ex-wife with his also-divorced uncles. He pulled me aside on a walk and told me I was beautiful, and then how to nab teenage guys. There was JJ, about 27, who lived in Berkeley and had been proposed to the day before by her longtime boyfriend AJ, whom all of us were meeting for the first time. She said later that she had just beaten an anime-based videogame when he did, and that its theme music was playing under his words. There was A, who must have been 25, who kicked around working for my parents and slaughtered all of us the day we went to the arcade (he spent the tokens on a puzzle of the Virgin Mary). Absent were B’s older brother J, who is apparently offended by something that happened once, and C, maybe 23, who doesn’t come out to these things in general. I think I understand his motive there. We are a pretty exclusive group, and when one misses something, one it out.
Between ourselves and our parents, there have been four divorces, eight marriages, eight children, about seven years of community college, countless years in the navy and other government war services, hundreds of miles of moves from where we all grew up, thousands of miles of travel from the same, and less college students than I would like to see, the most dedicated being the family females. JJ is included here, taking years off to earn her way to UC Berkeley, where she met AJ and, by all appearances, lived happily ever after.
However, we made the ultimate bond with both of them one particular day: embarrassing her while making him laugh. I don’t know if it was at us or with us, but I strongly suspect the latter.
All of us cousins, from the respective R, H, and T families, were sitting around in the kitchen playing cards or a board game while the previous generation did something of importance. Someone, I think it was B, dropped the word “woodpecker”.
And the conversation stopped for a moment while every male in the room busted up laughing and JJ put her head in her hands.
After a while I got it and joined in, and after a slightly longer while we stopped laughing at woodpecker and started laughing at how mature we are, me being the only one still in high school and the rest of them having lived on their own long enough to know how and when to keep a straight face. And AJ was in there, genuinely laughing with us.
And I felt like I belonged, and more with it than I’d ever felt before.