Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Cousin Maya"

Black folks call everybody "cousin". Haha okay, I'm exaggerating, but I've had such an interesting past two days that it's time for another post about what exactly constitutes family. 

My uncle's wife and her parents came up to Maryland from Savannah, GA for a reunion on her mom's side of the family. My uncle wasn't able to come up with her, but she'd bought two tickets for everything, so she invited me to come out there with them and, not having any other plans for my Friday and Saturday, I agreed, though I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting myself into. 

They picked me up after work on Friday and we went to...I'm not sure whose house, actually, to a fish fry. My aunt isn't even particularly close to this side of her family, because most of them live in the MD or NJ area and she was born and raised in the Savannah area. Of course, she didn't tell me this until we were getting out of the car and walking up to the house. So I quickly prepared myself for some awkwardness, but that was foolish--these people were the type to hug first, ask questions later. I lost count of how many people embraced me BEFORE stepping back to ask, "Do I know you?" I would smile and explain that they didn't, that Gwen's husband was my mom's brother and I live in DC so she invited me to come with her to the reunion. That generally prompted something along the lines of, "See? I knew we were related somehow!" or "I bet you didn't know you had so much family nearby!"  It always prompted something (over)legitimizing the barely extant tie. 

I didn't feel as awkwardly out of place in terms of age as I generally do with my own family. My 38-year-old aunt was the person I knew the best, so I spent a bit of time hanging out with her and the grown folks, talking jobs and cities and whatnot, but I spent some time hanging out with a bunch of adolescent girls and even some little kids too. There were games of musical chairs and numbers that people in every age bracket played.

On Saturday we went to Six Flags America. I began my day with my aunt, her brother, and his wife, and rode the log flume with her brother's wife, but at lunch I met up with the teenage girls. There were a bunch of them, aged 16 to 20, with one possibly being older. We rode a bunch of roller coasters together and split a funnel cake. As I was getting ready to leave, one of the girls who lives in MD stopped me to get my number, and saved it in her phone as "Cousin Maya". She'd known me for all of 18 hours, but already I was family. I was family to these people before they knew my name. 

This reminds me of going to RG's aunt's house on the 4th of July and being told I was "family now," that I was welcome to come back whenever. That I was going to be invited to this upcoming event she was hosting...and the feeling of surprise when that invitation came shortly. He repeated that word when inviting me to dinner at his house sometime in the near future (an invitation his parents made earlier this month). And my surprise gave way to a feeling of humility and like I was being honored when I got another invitation from his aunt this evening, this time to attend his cousin's going-away-to-college party next weekend. That *feels* like a family event. I...feel like she meant it. 

Family is the people who take you in, plain and simple. And you can find it in the most unexpected of situations. #lessonsIkeeplearningoverandoveragain

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