My family includes many cousins, most of whom I love very much. I need to tell you who I’m including, because they’re not actually cousins. My mom had cousins, four brothers, who we treated as uncles. It followed that their many offspring were our cousins, fake cousins. Mom also had one sister with three kids and a brother with four sons, who were actually our cousins. I grew up with all of these cousins, seeing each other often at the beach in summer, at each other’s homes, and certainly on holidays. With our shared Italian grandmother, platters of good food were always a major part of our indoor gatherings.
Then we grew up and grew apart, as families do. About ten to fifteen years ago, one of my ‘fake’ cousins, Bobby, called to invite me to a ‘cousins party!’ One sister of his lived in Alaska and another in Florida; they were both going to be home for Christmas. Because he realized how long it had been since we’d all been together and recognized the importance of being with each other again, Bobby hosted a reunion party at his house on Christmas Eve.
It was the best party, his house packed with many generations of family and friends and loaded with many of the foods that I remembered, including stuffed shells and Italian cookies. It has become an annual event, except for last year, the Covid Christmas, 2020. It may have been the single event that I missed the most last year, this chance to see all of these people who I grew up loving, plus others who I’ve come to know.
Now, on to another fake cousin, Billy, who lives in West Palm Beach. A few years ago, my husband and I were spending most of February in Florida and were invited to spend a few days with Billy and his wife, both newspaper journalists. We gladly accepted and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in the warm weather, reinforcing each other’s political views, including our shared love of independent bookshops. The following summer, they visited our area and spent a few days with us. As a thank-you gift, they brought us a gift box of postcards, from one hundred different independent book shops.
The cards were each wonderful and it was delightful to browse through them. But, I’m a practical person and didn’t want to waste them. I sent one to them as a thank-you, then, began to send them to people I’d had a nice connection with on Zoom. Sometimes, in my note I mentioned something I’d particularly liked or sent regards to someone who was sick or just said, ‘miss you.’ I’ve probably sent out more than half of them, including one to my son, Jack, in North Carolina.
I’d described the postcards to Jack and how I was using them. So, a few months ago,
Jack sent me a packet of about thee dozen postcards. Each commemorated a specific concern of mine, either a Native American or a historically important, but under appreciated woman, or a person of color, each with a descriptive story and a corresponding picture. Now, I’m using these cards to send to friends when they take an action reinforcing a quality represented by one of the cards.
This practice of mine started with cousins and postcards. It’s my postcard ministry that began with a cousin.
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