I was my parent’s first born and my brother is two years younger. It was just the two of us until I was nine, when my other brother Tom was born. So there I was with two younger brothers instead of the one thing I wanted more than anything – an older brother. I was a contrary little thing.
I did have the next best thing in my two older cousins. Michael was my mother’s brother’s oldest, rough and tumble and tough as nails. When spending anytime with Michael, who would eventually be the eldest of six boys, I was always guaranteed to have my long curls pulled, be pummeled, chased and bruised. Michael never sat still for one second and managed to do every Bad Thing a little boy can get into, but he had a grin and sparkling eyes that would melt an ice berg. He grew up to be Marine with a super sensitive side and was a great dancer. How I loved to dance with him!! He died in 1997 and I will never stop missing him. Every time we talked he would say over and over “I love you Marie Lynn.” I will always have that, I can still hear his voice in my mind.
Then there was my cousin Steve, who I have written about before. Steve was the youngest in his family and had two older sisters. His mother was my grandfather’s sister. Steve was Practically Perfect (I would say he is completely perfect but his wife might be able to come up with a flaw or two). As a child I loved Michael but I adored Steve. He never pulled my hair or hit me or quarreled with me. He let me win every game we ever played. He shared his toys. He pushed me on the swings, without me having to beg. How irresistible is that?!? He still is absolutely the best cousin I could ask for, supportive, encouraging and raises money every year for MS research through One Lap of America, an annual race event that he photographs. (It is described as “Nearly twenty-four hours a day driving with competition taking place as time trials on race tracks throughout the country.” I know nothing about cars and because my brain cells are diminishing at an alarming rate I find the whole event pretty confusing, but it is hugely popular.)
My great aunt, Steve’s mother, is an amazing 96 years old. I adore her as well, a woman who was a model of elegance and love for me as I was growing up. Every summer for years when Steve went away to camp, she would have me come up and stay with them. There are not too many parents who, having gotten rid of one kid, will import another. But her generosity, and patience, was endless. They lived in Yonkers and their house was built on a hilly plot with a super steep driveway. One day I got it in my head that it would be fun to ride a bike down the driveway into the garage. So I talked my older cousin Nancy into spotting for me. I went to the top of the driveway and I careened down, crashing directly into Nancy with a velocity I can still feel 45 years later. She managed to stop me, mostly by absorbing the impact, and thereby probably prevented me from bursting through the rear garage wall and dropping 30 feet to the ground below. It’s a miracle I didn’t kill her, yet both she and my aunt still speak to me. Just gives you some idea of their tolerance level.
My aunt just sent me a few pictures from when we were little that I am so grateful for:
I apparently was not wild about having my picture taken, but Steve looks adorable.
Oh look, another dismal picture of me but Steve looks, yep, adorable again. That is my grandmother next to me. Gosh I miss her.
Me, finally looking a little more cheerful, my brother (how cute is he?!) and Steve on Cape Cod.
My father and my brother on the swing set in Yonkers. In this picture my father is only 29 years old. Incredible.
I have been so lucky to have my two special cousins in my life. Many thanks to my aunt for sending me these pictures and reminding me of how fortunate I have been.
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