March 15, 2014

Have cousins, will travel

My brother is 5 1/2 years older than me. 

Growing up, I was always one life stage behind him. When Chris was in high school, I was still in grade school. When I started junior high, he went off to college. The summer before I went to college, Chris got married and moved back to our hometown of Fargo. The month I got married, he became a dad.

5 years later, I finally caught up to my big brother. When Sam and I became parents, we joined the long, crazy, fun, exhausting life phase of being parents of little kids. Chris and his wife Ana were still in the same phase, although they had a bit of a head start.

Evie came into the world with two older cousins eager to meet her. Alyssa and Kaitlyn, then 5 and 2, traveled to Nevada along with their parents for Evie's baptism. That weekend, watching the girls doting on baby Evie, realizing that it would be many months before they could see each other again, I knew that I had to do everything in my power to move closer to my family.

It took longer than I expected, but we made it happen.

The summer we moved to Minnesota, we spent a few days with my brother's family at a lake cabin. Evie ate her first s'mores and her first ice cream in the company of her older cousins.

When Evie was a toddler, she was like a living doll, agreeable to playing dress-up and whatever adventures her cousins concocted.

Soon, Felix joined the world, and the trio of cousins became a quartet.

The friendship between the kids has grown through a series of long weekends, holidays, and rescheduled holidays (like the Christmas-in-March we're celebrating today). Our visits are never frequent enough, they go by too quickly, but they're always good.

When we travel to Fargo, the kids do fun things like snowmobiling, riding 4-wheelers, and bouncing on trampolines.

When my brother's family comes to the Twin Cities, we might go to the Mall of America and get makeovers for dolls.

Or we might just hang around the house, send the kids down to the playroom or out into the yard, and relax.

These are the times when I understand what makes family so special.

Family is the way that Evie and Felix get crushed by hugs the moment they reunite with their cousins, no matter how long it has been since they last saw each other.

Family is sitting down with my brother, the only person on earth who knows exactly what it was like to grow up with my parents, and laughing over lost details from the past.

Family is sitting and reading books in the living room, feeling comfortable enough to just quietly occupy the same space without always having something to say.

I grew up on a different continent from my cousins, so I didn't know how special it was to have these people who are part of your family but live in a different house, these automatic friends who are always going to be part of your story.

Now, I get it.

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