Here is a picture of two of the cutest college freshmen you'll ever see--and I'm not just saying that because they're related to me! These adorable young people are first cousins, but they love each other like brother and sister. And they're hugging, of course, because cousins don't shake hands...cousins gotta HUG! (That's a "Tommy Boy" reference, and if you haven't seen that movie yet, stop reading this, go on Netflix or wherever it is you go to rent your DVD's, and order it, NOW! If it doesn't make you laugh, then you probably wouldn't understand my family's sense of humor.)
This is my baby and his cousin, who herself is the baby of her family of four girls. These two kids were born a mere two days apart, during a six-day stretch in which another boy cousin was also born.
Thank goodness our five sons had plenty of girl cousins to fill in the sister void, and thank goodness the cousins in the Pearl family are so unusually close. Even though the 32 Pearl first cousins were located in different states, literally all over the map (California, North Carolina, Illinois, Florida, Virginia, Connecticut, and New Hampshire), they were able to form amazingly strong bonds with each other. One huge reason is that every summer, we've gathered en masse for reunions at my husband's parents' home on the lake in Upstate New York, a magical family place that I talked about earlier in a post on this blog (see "Making Family Memories," July 7). Some of the families also make it up there for Christmas each year, or for the days between Christmas and New Year's. There have been some winter break ski vacations, too, involving three or four of the eight Pearl families at a time. And finally, there is the pilgrimmage to Notre Dame for a football game weekend once every fall (at least), when my husband and his seven siblings and their spouses and kids, or as many of them as possible, head out to South Bend to gather and put on epic tailgaters.
Our kids haven't gotten to spend a lot of time together growing up, but the time they spent was quality time, and somehow they became as close as cousins who live down the street from one another. Their bonds have only been strengthened by the fact that all the Pearl cousins have chosen to go to the same college, or to colleges that are very close to one another, where they socialize together, make mutual friends, and just keep getting closer.
Well, tomorrow before the crack of dawn I head out to the Midwest again, to visit my daughter-in-law and the twins (these granddaughters are making a flyer out of me!), and to help them get ready for the long trek eastward to Upstate New York. My husband and I are going to drive them home a few days from now, and then stay to help them settle in and prepare for my son's imminent return from Afghanistan. Looking at this picture of the two huggin' cousins makes me hope that, no matter how many miles separate my son's girls from the future children of his younger brothers, they'll end up being as close as my boys are to their cousins.