Wednesday, July 24, 2013

one is never enough: odd/ode to cousins (Part 1)

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Today, July 24this Cousins Day. It is also National Tequila Day & Amelia Earhart Day. Which is appropriate, since some cousins might drive you to drink, and others you may wish would get lost. Permanently.

I have a lot of cousins. Some are old enough to be my parents. Others are young enough to be my kids. Some I’ve known well all my life, some I am just now reconnecting with, all of them are important to me.

But there are six of us who are more like siblings than cousins. We grew up together, shared holidays together, went through joy and fire together, and sometimes lived under the same roof together. Cindi, Ray, Wayne, Dawn Brandon and Jason: We are the children of the Jackson Girls. And we are inseparable.

The Jackson Girls are our mothers – Mary, Gerri, and Shirley. They are so different but together they are a matched set. Mary is the eldest who challenges and grounds and mothers the other two, Shirley is the baby with the quick laugh and creative eye, and Gerri is the encouraging middle child always trying to keep the peace or keep out of the way.

In spite of their differences, they’ve always been there for each other. And they’ve always been there for each other’s kids. Not to be all “Sister Wives” or anything, but in a way we feel like we belong to all of them. Just like we belong to each other.

I’m the eldest, followed three years later by my brother Ray. Then came Wayne. Or Cayce. Depends on who you ask. His birth name was Carey Wayne, and growing up he was always Wayne to us. But when he went off to college, his friends started calling him Cayce and it stuck. The parishioners of the church he pastors call him Cayce. His wife calls him Cayce. His kids call him Dad, but if they could call him by his first name they’d call him Cayce.
We still call him Wayne.

Wayne had a temper when he was a little boy. I remember him throwing temper tantrums on Grandmama’s front porch. As the older and wiser cousin, my solution was to sit on him until he stopped or until Grandmama came out and made me get off of him. (He was her favorite.) His temper is pretty much under control these days, thanks to the Big Guy. Which is a good thing, because it would not look right if I sat on him at my age. Especially with him being a preacher and all. Scandal.

Wayne loved comic books growing up. Comic books and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. It was worth spending the night with him to share both, since we didn’t have them at our house. When he came to our house, which was often, he and my brother Ray always got into mischief.

Sometimes it involved stitches.

He and Ray learned to skateboard down the hill in front of our house. But one day that hill seemed too tame, and they decided to tackle the really steep hill down the street. Wayne made like an Orville Brother that day. He took flight - right into a pine tree. But that didn’t stop him. Nothing ever has. Wayne has always loved sports.  He wanted to play basketball. But as he explains it, he is a triple threat: Short, Slow and White. He has always been funny like that. If someone made a joke about him, he’d make a funnier one about himself and before long whoever was laughing at him was laughing with him. He still has that gift.

Dawn came next. I was 9 and happy to have another girl in the family. When she was a toddler, she was a prissy little thing. She wanted nothing to do with dirt and her mom dressed her like Holly Hobby. Then one day she decided dirt was awesome. Off went the Holly Hobby dresses and on went the jeans with the holes in the knee.....

(continued in Part 2)

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