A friend of mine always marvels at his cousins, saying they share 1/2 of his DNA. He’s right, of course. The connection is unique and interesting, especially when you start getting into your first cousin-once removed, second cousins, etc. The hilarious HBO show, Family Tree, is about a man searching for his relatives and finding all kinds of off the wall characters.

In my life, which is the only one I can speak of with any iota of experience, cousins have played many different roles. I had eight cousins on my father’s side and three on my mother’s side. I was the middle cousin and the oldest cousin. None of mine lived where I live, but I saw several of them a lot, spent time with them growing up. Looking back, one cousin and I seemed to always be off on an adventure, sharing secrets that we hope nobody found out about. Once we snuck into my parents’ bathroom & took stuff out of the medicine cabinet, combining things into what we called “mixtures.” We kept a notebook of the different combinations. This included everything from medicines to creams to whatever was in there. Yikes! I don’t think my parents found out…ever. Once we got on a bus and rode it to wherever it went. My aunt had to come get us when we got off and had to ask someone to use their phone. A much more innocent time, obviously! Her life went in some tragic directions…she kept on making crazy and hurtful choices. I keep in touch with several of my cousins, even with the different places our lives have taken us. They are special links to people and places in my history.

My own children had five cousins, four on my side, two on their fathers. Three of the cousins lived a block away growing up, went to school with them, played with them. They were close in age to two of my own so they have secret memories that I find out about when they are laughing about something they did way back then. My mother kept getting the award for the grandparent with the most grandchildren at the school (7), which made her laugh. She said it was an award for having prolific daughters!

Cousins 1990

My grandchildren are a unique bunch. They were born in bunches, it seems, and all live in the same town, going to the same school, playing sports together. I’m speaking of the older seven, who range in age from 11-16. The youngest, at 3 1/2, is on her own but finds them all pretty exciting. She has her own special place in all their lives, the living reminder of her father, their uncle, who died very young. She bonds with each of them differently. I love her with her 13 year old cousin who looks like he is her older brother…


If our family has been given a gift, it’s these cousins. All are close to their own siblings as well as the extended family. In fact, sometimes you can’t tell which one belongs with which family. For me, it’s watching the genetic pool at its most frenzied. Some of the children seem to have sprung from one of their aunts or uncle, some look more like a cousin than their own sibling. When you have them all together, you have to marvel at the connections and see how closely we are joined by the DNA. And you have to acknowledge the incredible individuality of each of them. There are different personalities, different approaches to life, and amazing affection for each other.

Here the oldest three…eight months between the oldest and youngest of them…two in the same class at school…

Scan 20


Here are the next two, eight months apart, who play basketball together, are in the same class…



And the younger two, boy and girl, three weeks apart in age, who we thought shared the same brain when younger…



What will their futures bring? I’m sure they’ll go in different directions and be as individual as they are now. They’ll have spouses and children and do different things. The comforting thing is that they have had the unique and wonderful experience of having a larger pool of relatives to share their youth and their experiences. I’m sure they have more secrets than we can even imagine.

I hope that they take all of this with them, in their hearts…and that it makes them even better people than I think they will be. Great kids…all of them. Grandmothers do get to beam with pride, yes we do!