Last night I dreamt that I was at a yard sale and found a partial set of three gorgeous pottery dinner plates for my little cousin Portia. She is one of seven cousins; there are two others my age and five younger ones I have called the “little cousins” all my life. In the dream I remember worrying that three dishes are not enough for entertaining, but I do not know my cousin well enough to even know if she has people over that only three plates would be a problem.
Portia and I do not see each other outside of reunions as she lives in Colorado and I live here in South Bend Indiana. I guess most families are spread out today- it is rare for one to live where their parents grew up. We move to follow love, career or traveling whims and this nomadic approach often separates extended family like mine. I think our experience of 'family' gets diluted because we cannot know each other on a daily basis. In my travels I have often made my own family from a handful of dear friends, and while it is good, it is....different than blood relatives.
Regardless of location, as the cousins all grow up and begin to marry or live otherwise very ‘grown up’ lives I am sheepishly aware that to call the little cousins ‘little’ is inappropriate and yet I cannot stop. The three of us older cousins have now gotten ourselves all “married off” and are trying to advance the family name by making family of our own. We are done for the moment with ourselves and eager to create someone new out of our love with our spouses.
It is interesting and painful to discover that making more family by having a baby is truly a miracle beyond our control. Two of us have had heartbreaking miscarriages and the other is conquering other fertility issues. It seems that it is not so easy to make babies that you become glowing with child the moment your interest in parenthood outweighs your fear of it.
This struggle to expand our small families makes me consider family more seriously and I want to know my cousins better. With the advance of modern distractions like Facebook this seems possible. Even just this week, there are photos from the wedding tagged to my account and with a few clicks I can keep tabs on the cousins and their life adventures from across the states. I believe that we can and WILL stay in touch throughout the years in ways we have not before.
I might just find a lopsided set of pottery plates for my little cousin Portia in real life, like in my dream, and by then I may know her taste well enough to know if she even entertains. As I grow older and become less interested in myself and more interested in family, MY family - I may even be able to stop calling my beautiful, accomplished and grown up cousins ‘little’. Maybe. I have heard miracles do in fact still happen...and I am counting on it.