“Wow! You must have been a mistake.” (Charming!)
“Really? Because I know everyone in that family and I’ve never heard of you.” (Delightful)
“I think your grandma is here to pick you up.” (On behalf of my mother, Thank-You)
These are some of the most memorable phrases from my childhood and youth. I am the youngest child in my family. I have sisters who are identical twins, a brother and another sister. They are 17, 14, and 11 years older than me respectively. My mother was just shy of 41 when I was born. Plus I grew up here in Melonville and well, I call my hometown Melonville because it’s citizens do things like ask a little girl if she was a mistake. Losers.
(Indulge me here for a moment. Never, never ever ask a child if they were a mistake, smirk at a pregnant woman and ask if the child was a mistake, or refer to your own perhaps unexpected pregnancy as a mistake. It is the single most insulting thing to say to or about another human being. )
I am also the youngest of all my cousins by approximately the same margin.
I came into my family after the death of my grandparents. My parents and aunts and uncles who spent so much time together when they were all young parents began to see less of each other. The time of the big family picnics had passed.
There is in fact a whole history shared by the rest of my family that does not include me.
When I was still in elementary school, my parents had a son and daughter-in-law. By the time I started middle school I was an Aunt and the child of grandparents. My siblings were no longer my big brother and sisters they were some else’s spouse. They were parents. There were newlyweds and new babies and I was neither.
I was involved in my brother and sisters wedding festivities and baby celebrations by default. I was their sister, I might have been a kid, but they had to have me at these things. My cousins were a different story they were free to pull the “adults only” line and leave me off the guest list.
My nieces and nephews range in age from 28 to 16. When the now 16 year old was a baby, I was a university student. That Christmas the 10 grandchildren where grouped together for a portrait. It hangs in my parent’s front hall and is still referred to as “the Christmas picture of all the kids”. When I requested that we have a new one taken that included my 4 children, I was told that “the older ones” would never go for it. Thanks for the effort guys.
My children have never been treated badly by their aunts and uncles and cousins. They love my little ones and my kids are crazy about their crazy relatives. They love a family party when they get to hang out with the “big kids”.
Sadly what they will never have with their cousins is true friendships. When the other grandchildren were small, everyone attended events like birthdays or Baptisms. My children have 18 cousins (including my husband’s side of the family) all in the age range mentioned above and when my son made his First Communion a few weeks ago 2 of his cousins came.
There is no blame to be laid here. It is just bad timing in a way, but still it saddens me. I wish my siblings could see things from this side. My children range in age from 9 years old to 18 months old. My parents are 80 and 81. My father has had 4 hip replacement surgeries, and a quintuple by-pass. He had a heart attack 6 weeks before my wedding. My last Christmas at home, he was in hospital in the ICU.
It is not likely my parents will see my children graduate from high school or university. They will not be there when they are married. I worry that they may be gone before my youngest has a chance to form any real memories of them.
There is a wedding this fall. My nephew is getting married, and the old pattern starts anew as his youngest cousins are left off the guest list. No children at the wedding. I suspect everyone will go. This is a big deal; the first of the grandchildren to marry. Part of me understands, weddings are expensive and 4 extra meals at $100 a pop is nothing to sneeze at, but on the other hand, I have slipped through the cracks again, and my children will be the only cousins not included.
Last fall my 3 sisters and my mom went to Key West together, in part to celebrate her 80th birthday. As they told me many times they didn’t ask me to go because they knew I couldn’t go. They were right. I couldn’t have gone. But it would have been nice to be asked. It would have been nice to be one of the girls.