The Prompt: Retrospectively Funny–Tell us about a situation that was not funny at all while it was happening, but that you now laugh about whenever you remember it.
That Sinking Feeling
Because my father was both the youngest in his family by quite a few years and also waited until he was older to get married, and because I was the youngest in my family, it meant that I had no cousins my own age.
My mother’s nieces and nephews were eleven to twenty years older than me and lived a day’s drive away, so although I heard about them and saw pictures, I only actually met them a few times during my at-home years and even their children were not my age, but quite a bit younger. In addition, although we lived in the same town as one of my dad’s sisters, her children were even older than my eleven-years-older sister, so again, no cousins my age. My dad’s oldest sister had seven sons, but all were closer to my parents’ age than to mine and although there were rumors of their kids, my second cousins, being close to my age, they lived far away in Idaho–a three days journey or more on the two lane roads of the fifties.
As friend after friend had cousins come to visit in the summer or had them close at hand to make family holidays and dinners interesting, I, alas had none. But one summer I hit pay dirt when for some reason or other, six of my Aunt Margaret’s seven sons all traveled through South Dakota at one time or other during the summer and all of them had kids–MY AGE!!! I was in heaven. Add to that the fact that most of those kids were boys and I was just at the age where I had started to be interested in boys, and you can imagine what a good summer indeed it was for me.
My mother handled the situation of having so much company in one three month period by having a set menu that she served each time–baked ham, potato salad, baked beans and cherry pie. Our laden cherry trees in the back yard furnished adequate cherries for pies for an army and for those early visitors who got there before the cherries were ripe, there were still pies in our freezer frozen the summer before. My mom had it covered!
One of our first families to visit was my cousin who had been a Quaker missionary in Kenya. Chills ran up our necks as he told about the Mau Mau uprisings and how he and his family had just happened to be gone the day they came and raided the mission to come kill them. These kind of stories had never before been heard in my family, and we were all both rapt and perhaps a bit grateful for our boring lives in a very small isolated town in South Dakota.
Then came the visit of my cousin Pam, who sent me a little doll to add to my collection, complete with outfits. Another family consisted of three boys who later sent me stamps to start a collection. A younger girl cousin, asked to spend the night, grew weepy towards midnight as my friend Rita and I were trying to show her how fun it was to stay up all night. My folks ended up having to call her folks at the motel to come get her. What a baby!
The best visitor of all, however, was my cousin Buddy. He was just my age and when we rode down the street on bikes–me on mine and he on my older sister’s–I imagined that people might think I had a new boyfriend. He showed me his coin collection, which traveled with him, and even gave me some coin protectors for the silver dollars my dad had given me. My friend Rita flirted with him, but he was even more innocent than we were and I think he didn’t quite understand. Nonetheless, I was interested in impressing Buddy and was on my best behavior.
It seemed to be working until a little incident in the kitchen when he politely asked if I could tell him where the lavatory was. Now I had only heard this term applied to a sink and so I blithely said, “Oh, just use the kitchen sink!” His look of astonishment should have told me that something was wrong, but it never occurred to me that he was asking for the bathroom. In short, a place to pee!
I can’t remember how this issue was resolved. I am sure he didn’t pee in the kitchen sink and that he was somehow routed to the correct facility by another member of the family. The fact that I remember his shocked face to this day indicates to me that perhaps this is one of those most embarrassing events that somehow over the years has transitioned into a funny story–and the fact that I’m telling you proves it!
A few years ago, I found an email from one of my cousins (whom I hadn’t seen since I was 11) when I for some reason checked out at an old email address I hadn’t used in years. In it, he identified himself as the baby being held in the arms of my grandfather in a biographical book of poetry I had written about growing up in South Dakota. He had somehow found a copy of the book and found my email address in the book! This started a correspondence with the result that both of my sisters and I attended a family reunion of his family in Idaho. Below is a picture of some of the cousins and second cousins (from that summer of the cousins) I reconnected with at that reunion, which was attended by hundreds of their children, grandchildren, great and great-great grandchildren! Finally, I had as many cousins as a girl could ever want!