Growing up as an only child, my cousins were more like siblings. I was particularly close to one cousin, who is still one of my best friends to this day. She’s three years older than me, but the age difference never mattered. Because we were tight.
She is invaluable to me. The big sister I never had. A confidante, gossip buddy, and soulmate. Even as adults, through the thick and the thin, we have a bond that goes unbroken. After all, she’s been there since my very first breath.
Cousins are irreplaceable, because they get you unlike anyone else. It could be an expression written all over your face, maybe it’s your lack of words in contrast to your otherwise boisterous self, or maybe it’s just because they know you so well that, without having to utter a word, they can feel what’s in your heart.
They are a firsthand witness to all of the family flaws, the drama, what makes you tick, and the upbringing that’s formed you into who you are today. There’s no such thing as being too silly, too loud or “too much” around your cousins, because they love the “you” you might not feel comfortable showing others.
Considering you’ve known them intimately since the beginning of time, or perhaps since the beginning of theirs, they take you as you are. They’ve witnessed your grin go from gummy smile to baby teeth, watched you blossom from a child into an adult. All the while, they were there with you, growing into their own self too.
For those with cousins close in age, puberty probably reared its ugly head around the same time. An unfortunate event for the rest of the family on the receiving end of those newly-minted PMS symptoms, but fortunate for those needing a buddy to commiserate with or someone to show them how to properly use a tampon (cough, cough, me).
You were in a hurry to grow up together, making plans you may look back on and laugh at from the sheer foolishness today. Thoughts of those days carry with them inside jokes that nobody else could possibly understand, memories which can only be remembered (and sometimes whispered about) with one another, and a bond nobody else could share.
The cousin thing is unique, because although your relationship was created by blood, not choice, you’d still choose them a million times once more. There is no one else you would’ve rather shared your childhood with, because those little, everyday moments are what made up your younger years.
Even the sick days weren’t so bad because a day home from school meant time spent at Grams and Gramps’ house with the germ-infested cousin who likely gave you the bug in the first place. Because of those days, your cousins understand what it means when you say nobody makes chicken and noodles like Grams used to. And they can relate to how you could miss something as simple as a home-cooked meal after her time had passed.
They were around for those sad times, the joyful days, happy moments, special occasions and holidays. And when they weren’t, you remember feeling like, “Mom, why did we even come here in the first place?” Because, from a kid’s perspective, what’s a family get-together with a bunch of adults without your cousins? Boring AF, that’s what.
Cousins are what fueled our childlike wonder of make-believe back in the days. Maybe you played house, cats, witches or school in your elementary years. Whatever the usual charade, it was something no adult would spend hours on end doing with you… but your cousins would and did.
They are the hands of the forts you made as a child, the tune to the most played Dance Dance Revolution song, and the one with identical dirty feet on summer days which proved hours of outdoor, non-stop entertainment.
Cousins are the arm around your neck after being awarded a first place ribbon, memories of bubble baths you used to take together as a child, and pageants you participated in while growing up.
In a cousin, there is a lifelong best friend — someone you never have to pretend with. One who recalls what it was like to survive the god-awful, matching windbreaker-stage and forced family pictures together. (The ones you loathed to prepare for as a kid, but cherish on a deep level as an adult.)
When you look back on those photos of a simpler time, isn’t it just pure nostalgia? And when you’re with your cousins today, are you taken back in the same way I am? Do you feel a sense of comfort that feels like home through them?
Though time moves all too quickly — months may go by without speaking, and miles may separate the distance — your cousins have a way of making you feel that wholesome sense of childhood in the maturity of adulthood. Because, in a way, they are your childhood.
Even as an adult, you could never be “too much” or too yourself for those cousins who love you the most. They are the ones with whom you can bare your soul without judgment. The family members you don’t have to explain your predicament to, because they already get it. Without saying a word, they just sort of know.
Because they’ve witnessed every version of you: The child you, the teen you, the adult you and even the mom you.
Your cousins are more than just family. They are the keepers of your childhood heart’s home.