Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cousin Love - LA Style

Although it was improbable given the physical miles between us, I grew up very close to my first cousins on my father's side of the family. There are three of them. Youngest Cousin is four years my senior and has a wicked sense of humor likely gained from years of being pushed around by her opinionated, strong-willed siblings. Oldest Cousin and I share a love of sewing. Middle Cousin was in law school in Chicago while I was doing my undergrad in Madison, thus he become my safety net when drama arose.

I looked up to my cousins, much the way The Pinks look up to their Calabasas cousins.

The summer of my 16th year was when my cousins dressed me up for my first New York City bar hopping experience. During Thanksgiving of my 20th year two friends and I stayed in Youngest Cousin's apartment (she left town and also left behind the car and keys) and shot the 1986 equivalent of Selfies all around Chicago. There may have been some wine coolers involved in that; why else would we pose on the outside viewing deck of the then-Sears Tower on a day too foggy to see anything?!

Middle Cousin and I visited the bears at Denali together, took a dunk at Chena Hot Springs and cruised around Prince William Sound in a Zodiak . He also cooked for me -- I had dreams about his linguine with clam sauce for years. He also took me to some Italian restaurant in Chicago and did a standing back flip right there in the dining room, for a reason that must have been a dare.

Eldest Cousin took me to the beach at Narragansett and also made me the Great Expectations quilt when I was pregnant with the Youngest Pinks.

Fast forward 20 years. Eldest Cousin practices law in Providence. Middle Cousin practices law in Chicago. And  Youngest Cousin is enjoying some time at home with her two sweet sons in LA after many grueling years in the the entertainment industry.

We met up with the whole entourage last weekend to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of Youngest Cousin's Eldest Son. The years disappeared and the next generation of cousins picked up where our generation left off. Next Generation is pictured at right, ages 11 to 17.

The last time this same group was together was Youngest Cousin's wedding, 15 years ago. At that time Oldest Cousin's Youngest Child was two and very attached to his lovey, a cartoon character doll named Ben. Ben was intentionally excluded from the formal family picture and in that picture, Youngest Child is wailing hysterically in response. Today Youngest Child is a high school senior. Dave brilliantly found and procured a Ben doll so we could recreate this photo, to the merriment of all involved.

Thing 1 and Youngest Cousin's Youngest Son, also age 11, bonded over their shared diminutive stature. Look closely at the picture below; they could easily be mistaken as twins. For Eldest Daughter, the highlight of the weekend was realizing that her towering height of 5'2" made her (much!) taller than all the other women in our clan. In heels she was positively Amazonian. Sadly, it also meant her feet were larger than Youngest Cousin's. Youngest Cousin's shoe collection rivals my own.

The Pinks and I drove halfway down Thursday night. We spent the night at the Harris Ranch Inn, which Thing 1 aptly summed up by saying, "If cows had sensitive noses they'd be barfing right now." The property has gorgeous, manicured, flowering grounds, which are complete waste because the stench coming off of the surrounding cattle grazing land, is vile. (Sidebar: How come no one mentions the cow smell on The Pioneer Woman's Oklahoma Cattle Ranch?!)

Friday morning, after a call to the schools declaring that The Pinks were sick with Spring  fever, we met the cousins for an attack on Magic Mountain. There we broke into two groups: thrill seekers and non-thrill-seekers. Once again I held my own on the roller coasters.

After a quick dip in the hotel pool we joined up with the rest of the extended family for Friday night dinner. The Bar Mitzvah boy did a beautiful job Saturday morning and his interpretation of his portion brought us all to tears. After the service we ate and danced and ate more, as is traditional. My aunt and uncle, who I have been close to since we all lived in San Francisco during my post-college years, were in their element surrounded by their mischpucha. And then we went back to Youngest Cousin's house and ate more. The kids, led by the 26-year-old bassoonist who just married Oldest Cousin's Oldest Child, launched an aggressive Nerf gun war. And of course we ate more Sunday morning before hitting the road.

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