Saturday, March 19, 2011


Christopher sat beside me Wednesday night at our Young Women’s activity. The girls had invited their younger siblings to come, a follow-up opportunity from our Sunday lesson on strengthening family ties. Jess brought her 9 year old brother Chris. I chatted with him while he painted a little wooden box with his 18 year old sister. We talked about random things, nothing of much consequence really. Jess mentioned that they had been looking at the video their parents had made of Christopher’s early years (as if he were not still in them).
“I never realized,” Chris said as he smoothed BYU blue paint across the top of his box, “how wrinkly little babies are. And they have this long grey wrinkly tube coming out of their bellies.” He scrunched his face. “Ewww.”
“That’s your umbilical cord Bud. We all had them. That’s where our belly buttons are now.”
I was about to explain how blood and nutrients passed from mother to baby, but thought better of it, knowing there were other kids a the table and thinking maybe we should lighten the topic.

All those cords, connecting us to our mothers, and them to their mothers, and so on. Like stitches in a seam. As independent as we like to think ourselves, no one is completely of their own making. All we have to do is poke that little divot in our tummies to be reminded of that. We carry the blood of our mothers, who carry the blood of their mothers.
Is it plasma or some other sort of blood that makes cousins…cousins? As far as I know there is not proof that a certain aspect of a person’s blood makes for a certain character trait. It could be true, I’ve just never heard about it. Nonetheless, there are definite aspects of my personality that run right along the same railroad track as my cousins. Things we do, things we say, even mannerisms that mimic each other, even if we are from different generations and sometimes even if we never really knew each other.

Since our mom was the next to youngest in her large family, and I was the tail end of her passel of kids, we really only had one chunk of cousins that were anywhere near my age. In fact I don’t think I have one cousin my same age. We didn’t know the cousins on our dad’s side, except for Sandra and Nancy. And we never saw them at all after my elementary school years since Dad left for good. But those Miskin cousins there in that little brick house in Ucon, Idaho were treasures to me. Pure treasures. First of all my Aunt Becky was pretty much the kind of person I wanted to be. She was creative and witty and spiritual and hard working and fun. She didn’t over-fuss about things, but we all had our chores to do. It made me feel like I belonged when I got my chore assignments along with the cousins when we visited in the summers.
My Miskin cousins were older than I, at least until Michelle was born and the second batch of Miskin kids came along. Not by a lot, but just old enough to make me want to be just like them. All girls: DeAnn, Gail, Jane and Mary Lou. They were bonafide teenagers, with long straight hair and make up and real bra’s and everything! They had jobs, and dates, and purses that had real money in them, too. In the afternoons, when our chores were done, we’d pump up the hi fi stereo and let Carole King thump out the opening beats of her brand new LP, Tapestry ... “I feel the earth ! Move! Under my feet. I feel the sky tum-buh-lin’ down. I feel my heart start a-trem-buh-lin’ when-eh-vuh you’re arou-ou-ou-ound.” Oh my gosh, that brings back so many brain pictures and little zingy feeling sparklers! To this day I use Carole King’s Tapestry album to motivate me to clean. (I don’t play it all that often, obviously.)

On hot summer nights we slept under the stars, on the grass in the back yard. We’d wait till the lights were out in the house and then unzip our sleeping bags, tiptoeing past Uncle Richard’s window, hunched in silence as we scurried to the road, then made our way out to Tucker’s farm for a rendezvous of the most wholesome variety. Night games of Duck Duck Goose in the freshly mown hay. Looking back I don’t really know how much of my memory bank is conjecture and how much was real. And of the real, I’m not sure how much of it actually occurred in sequence or if it got scrunched together like costumes in my imaginary family cedar chest. Doesn’t matter. What I take from it now is a tender place in my heart for those daughters of my cherished Aunt Becky; all of them grandmothers now. Cousins who lived far away became stitched to our hearts, in long untidy basting stitches, by these memory packed visits. I remember vividly pulling onto the highway, the little Idaho town of Ucon in our rear view mirror, knowing the town we called home, so far away in the east, had no such creatures anywhere near our house or apartment. I ached to turn around, to plant myself closer to the people who bore my blood, to breathe that Idaho air into my lungs in a season other than summer.

I watch my grandkids interact with each other now: see how thrilled Timo and Sophie are when they see each other. I’m conscious of how pivotal their time together can be. I take Parker and Anna Bella and tie their aprons on, lifting them onto the black counter stools, handing them rubber spatulas and measuring spoons. They each crack an egg, dropping them into the bowl before us. “Gummy, can I do the sugar?” Anna asks, “and Parker can do the flour?” We all agree. Little pre-school hands hold the beaters when we’re done, their tiny tongues wiggling in search of a smidgen of batter.

“Can we go play now?” They scurry off their perches, I untie their aprons, and they are off searching for some new adventure. They are young. Too young to have solid memories form like photographs in a pool of liquid developer. They won’t store these particulars in their minds, unless we take pictures and show them to them down the road. But they will sense, somehow, that something is different with these people. Something binding, even if personalities are not particularly aligned in the end. There was this time when blood flowed from their mom’s to them, and from Gummy to their parents, like the blood flowed from my mother to me and her mother to her.

There is no escaping it. Blessedly, wonderfully, gratefully, there is no escaping it. We are bound. We are cousins.


  1. I still feel bound to you. I remember sleeping out with you girls in our yard in Shelley. It's really too bad all of that had to end, but we were kids and couldn't control the behavior of adults I guess. I thought of you continually growing up, even if I couldn't see you. :)

  2. G's cousins were like yours - he was the oldest of the second to youngest of seven, and on that side, all the cousins towered over him. On the other side, he was the oldest of the oldest, and he towered over them. It was a huge bunch of family. Me? My mom had one sib, my dad one. My mom's brother was a dentist in the armed forces and traveled all over the country. Their children were all younger than I was. And they didn't much care for LDS people who were destined for hell. My aunt - my dad's sister, had four boys, two ancient ones, one my age and one younger. Jeff was so magical to me, and we used to play Clue at his house.

    But we only lived in the same town with cousins for one year. And were as far as you could get from that town for the rest of my life, either on one coast or the other. And we were ideologically distant from them, too - only hell didn't enter into it so much on that side.

    When I came here, I was overwhelmed with the size and complexity of families, and almost drowned in G's. but now we have our own complexity - as brothers and sisters have moved up here - and now our own children have what I never did - a plethora of cousins.

    it's not simple. But it's worth it.