The ten cousins, (not quite) together at last

This weekend I went to my grandma’s house to celebrate Easter, and (perhaps most noticeably) bake bread. With the exception of an aunt and cousin, the entire family was there for dinner on Saturday. It was the first time my older cousin Mac had been to the house for two years (I think. Nobody could actually figure out when the last time Mac had come to Granny’s had been). All seventeen of us were standing around in the kitchen telling stories, and I just couldn’t help but think of how grown up everybody is. Last Easter, I felt like the most grown-up grandkid by a landslide. I was the only one going to a college I couldn’t commute to, and therefore the only one who had taken any steps at all toward moving out of my parent’s house. I was getting ready to go to Europe by myself for two months to do a funded research project. Meanwhile, Mac was living at home, maybe taking a class at his community college, and otherwise working at the soft pretzel factory. Other than that, I’m older than everybody else and the only other cousin who had graduated high school was also commuting to a two-year college. My brother was getting ready to go to Penn State Altoona, but even that was still nearly 5 months away.

But this year, I don’t feel quite as comparatively grown-up, and it’s weird. Mac has finished his associate’s degree and explained to my mom and I last night that he is planning on teaching himself about web design because that’s the field he intends to go into. His high school friends are all moving out of their childhood homes, so he is even more determined to work full-time and get a place of his own as well. The 3rd-oldest, Danielle, is still commuting but she finishes classes this semester and then begins an internship rotation at Penn Veterinary School. My brother is finishing up his freshman year at Altoona, and my cousin just went to an accepted students’ day at George Washington University and decided to attend. The youngest cousin turns 13 in a few months. Of the four “little kids”, the two oldest start high school in the fall. Of all the older kids, I’m the only one without a job. Everybody is growing up.

We’re all growing up, but so much of this weekend is the same as it has always been. We made Easter bread, as is usual for Easter weekend. In fact, my sister and cousin made a batch completely by themselves on Friday, a step up from where we were just a year ago. After they made their ten loaves, I stepped in to make the next 33.  The rest of the kids spent the weekend jumping on the trampoline, heading down to the woods, playing video games—just like 10 years ago when the little kids were just toddlers, or 5 years ago when we were in charge of the little kids, or even last year. At one point I was standing in the kitchen, kneading the bread, and my grandma and I commented to each other that the older cousins just want to pretend that they are still little kids and forget about whatever real-person responsibilities they have.

Another thing I realized while hanging out with my extended family this weekend is how much they helped mold me into the person I am today in social situations. I never had any desire to join in on the cousin games this weekend—what I wanted was for my aunts and uncles to include me in their conversations about workers comp, disability insurance, and scams while traveling for work. Even college preparations and kitchen remodeling was preferable over the younger kids making me play videogames with them. The thing is, that’s always how it’s gone at Granny’s house for me, and I love it. I have learned so much just from listening to the adults and taking in everything they say, and I don’t think I would have the same level of world awareness as I do without those experiences. Sometimes it’s a bit harder for me to relate to my peers because I have never gotten caught up in my cousins’ games, but I think that’s just who I am, and I’m okay with it. My cousins and extended family played a big role in my childhood, and it’s very weird to realize that we only have a very limited number of times left that the whole family can realistically come together. I think the last time we were actually all together might have been my grandfather’s funeral in the summer of 2014, and I don’t know if or when we will manage to do that again for a happy occasion. Everybody is growing up and moving on, but some things will always stay the same.

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