On a breezy Friday I found myself in an upscale restaurant in the West Village. Normally this scene is unattainable for me. Broke and alone in New York, I had no business eating a classy dinner and sipping on 23 dollar drinks.
I'm here meeting up with my two cousins, who I haven't seen since I was a high school aged mess. Family is an integral part of life. You must never underestimate the power and overwhelming joy they can bring you. When I saw them I almost cried, big, sloppy, embarrassing tears. Because they had grown so much...the little girls I used to play with during summers in Michigan became beautiful, happy adults. I admire them. I'm proud of them. Family is synonymous with a bond. It's a blood oath, to care for and defend those that share the same line. There is something inherently beautiful and intense about family. There's an obligation, a standing offer that no matter what, that oath can never break. We do not choose these people, we are born into them, and for good reason.
I ended up not seeing my cousins all that much during middle and high school. My grandmother moved away. Everything got quicker, busier. Life started to happen. We all got boyfriends, jobs. We went to college. We became adults. The summers fade and life takes hold. But even though the visits became infrequent and the calls shorter, and the primary mode of contact was Facebook likes and text messages...I always knew they were there for me...All of them. Aunts in California,cousins in North Carolina, uncles and cousins in Chicago, Arizona, it didn't matter. Family can be a subtle light that you can see from across the country. It's a feeling that wherever you are, you're not alone. You cannot put a price on that...the connection, the oath. Families do for one another, they talk with each other, they come in and help when no-one else will, and in most cases they're infuriating, comforting and absolutely necessary. I had the best night of my life in New York, not because of what I was doing, but who I was with.
I was with my family: the native experience of their faces, their mannerisms, their generosity made me feel at ease for the first time in a while. And though the first month I touched down hell-bent at JFK with nothing I know I'm not alone. Somewhere deep where the darkness sits, the little light from across the country illuminates. When you see your family, it gets brighter. You end up forgetting all the worries, the obligations, and you just enjoy the moment. That's hard when the only thing keeping you to the ground is your unwavering determination to avoid failure. People like your family are there to remind you that you that you aren't a failure. They say they're proud. They care about what you say. They follow your progress. This of course is all in an idyllic world where things like gambling addiction and fear and loathing take a back seat to openness and faith. And some things you just can't control. But by some form of twisted fate, we were brought back together under the New York City skyline. The feelings from Michigan came back...and I knew things would be okay.
(All of the cousins joining together for our grandfather's funeral) (My cousin and I years later) (L to R: My two cousins, brother, sister and me) I remember lazy summers nearly 10 years ago in the pastoral Arcadia that was Grand Haven, Michigan where I have the most vivid memories of my family: Little sun-dresses and adventures in the park...missing teeth and my baby brother just born into the world. My sister's chubby little face. My two cousins, my best friends. Mom...dad...the family dogs. Those summers will never come again. I remember my grandmother yelling at us for being too loud. I remember snickering in the dark, staying up too late...seeing things through pink barbie glasses and catching fireflies at night time. I remember sun-burnt faces and Whiffle ball, ice cream and bike rides. Riding out on rafts, too far to swim back...being pulled in by our parents. Listening to our first inklings of punk music and laughing forever. I remember playing in the still and crisp water of Lake Michigan. I remember everything. Never disconnected, always calling...visiting and caring. Cousins and aunts, uncles and grandparents, bonded under the last names and common ancestors. Barbecues, parties, celebrations, inclusion. I never felt safer or happier. I was fearless. I lost that a bit because I moved around a lot. I couldn't keep friends. The visits became few and far between.There was an expiration date on everything, but family was different.
I'm thankful to know that my cousins and my family are here for me. And Ifor them. It's an oath, and whether it's twisted or shaken, distant or infrequent it's always there. FaceTime and video-messages may replace your contact with those you love, but fear not...because it's better than nothing.
Like a light in the distance, barely visible, at times only a feeling,
but more-so a vow of faith and support. And as time stretches on and
people leave for good, they're never really gone. Your blood remains
I'm still waiting to re-unite with others, and as they move forward in their lives...it's nice to know they're out there. Never lose sight of the joy of catching up with family. Listen to them, invest in them and above all else, appreciate them. For whatever they are...they're yours.
Over cocktails and under NYC lights, I remembered that the most important things in life are the people you share it with.