Your father was born in 1866, and in 1933 he died of a prolonged, painful illness. The country was still struggling to survive The Great Depression, and your mother had a farm to run and five children entrusted to her care. Before dementia blurred your memory and confused the details, you often told me stories about how Grandma fed, clothed, guided and faithfully cared for you and your siblings. She earned the respect of her church and the community, and she sent you all to college and welcomed your spouses to the family. She sang to, cooked for, cuddled, gently instructed and treasured each of the thirteen grandchildren who graced her life.
You don’t remember the names of Grandma’s eight grandsons and five granddaughters, Mom, but your daughter and your four nieces remember you very well. This past week the five of us met in Georgia for a reunion of the “girl cousins.” We flew in from Colorado, Arizona and Nebraska, and our mission was to divide and distribute years of accumulated family possessions and keepsakes. We are, after all, now mature women and seriously talented, educated organizers who can be trusted to tackle such a chore.
What we learned, however, is that beneath our “slightly” aging grandmother faces, we are still girls at heart. We argued issues and solved problems, but we also laughed and played pranks, celebrated the sweetness of life, shared the sorrows, and swore to keep secret the details shared in confidence.
Our week at Beth’s wonderful home in the woods of Athens, Georgia reminded us that cousins are more than just holiday friends, playmates, and childhood irritants. We’re also the next generation, the mothers of Grandma’s great-grandchildren, and the keepers of the memories. Together we filled in the missing precious pieces of the family’s Big Picture puzzle.
Mom, you have outlived almost all of your siblings and all of the spouses. But you and Dad–and the parents of the Girl Cousins (and our brothers)—will live on in the stories we remember and share. That is the magic, and the legacy, of family stories.
With love from Marylin and her “Girl Cousins”–Beth, Sandee, Glee and Karen