In the last couple of years or so I (and some of my siblings) have started re-connecting with my only first cousins, on Facebook. We had all been completely out of touch for many (many!) years, only occasionally hearing via our shared grandfather or parents something about one or another of us. I’m not all that clear about how we got so out of touch but it seemed as if it were always “the grownups” responsibility to communicate and not “the kids”. As children and young adults we wrote brief notes, thank you notes, occasional letters to our uncle and aunt or grandparents but I don’t remember ever writing to my cousins.
Having made contact with my slightly older female cousin in particular, and having figured out how to have real time conversations (messaging, texting, actually talking on the phone), I happened to tell her last Spring that I was getting ready to retire fully in July and hadn’t decided yet what I was going to do with myself. Her immediate comeback was “Well you could come to Texas to visit of course.” I was struck – this was not an idea that had occurred to me. However, I was immediately taken with the idea, and committed to convincing my older sister to join me. I knew she would like the idea, and that my husband wouldn’t. (Further, he had a golf trip to Scotland planned for October and was himself working toward closing his office and retiring, so was unlikely to be eager to travel to visit family he had never met.) My sister and I would have an adventure!
To make a long story short, as my father always said, my sister Margaret agreed it was a fine idea and we started making plans. My cousin D. also very generously offered to put us up and to play tour guide for us. (This is the kind of thing she says her mother always did, but she hadn’t had much opportunity.) Discussion about all the various schedules and weather brought us to focus on traveling after peak foliage time in the Northeast, the second half of October. We thought the temperatures in Texas would be moderating then (being North-easterners we don’t do high heat and humidity very well) and it worked for all of us in terms of other commitments and plans. Done and done. We didn’t take hurricanes into account. Thankfully, for them, and luckily for our travel plans, the hurricanes that hit Texas this Fall did not get as far up into Texas as where they all live with anything but manageable rains and moderated winds.
When we started talking about how long had it been since we saw each other, I brought out my picture of the entire family visiting in Texas from 1957 as a starting point. My sister and I were pretty sure that they had visited us in Indiana, maybe the summer before our trip to Texas, and maybe once more after that trip. They had always lived in southern Texas, and we had always lived in central Indiana or eastern Massachusetts. These were long distances to travel in those days (somewhere between 1200-1300 driving miles), and with young families and little vacation time it was difficult to visit. Our families did not fly for vacations in those days. Funnily enough, the cousins had about the same conversations that Margaret and I had about how long, and what information we had put together about the cousins families etc.
When we arrived, and D. had picked us up, the talking started. It was so easy and comfortable, almost like we had known each other all along. And since we returned home, I have taken great pleasure in telling our brothers and friends about the trip and how long it had been since we’d seen each other. Only after the trip did it occur to me just what a risk it might have been both for D. and for us. I hope she feels, as I do, that it was a great trip and well worth the effort.