There are some discoveries a child makes, that make us proud. Others make us believe in God and love and heaven. Still others, well, they make us throw up a little in our mouths and maybe wonder if shock therapy is in order. But as I always say to myself, “When you feel like it’s all too much, find a little humor in it. It’s probably not as bad as you think. If it IS that bad, have a drink.” Okay, I’ve never said that.
Yah, what’s that a lead up to, right? Well, we recently had a visit from my husband’s parents, little brother, his wife and their two kids. You guessed it, we spent the holiday known as Christmas (to our family anyway) together. And you always hope that the time spent with family will resemble some lovely black and white movie with music playing instead of a video game fight scene. So you hope and pray and stand back.
And like every good thing that happens in my life as a parent, my kids help me find the razor at the bottom of the half full glass. I’m the eternal optimist. And yet, I know now that means I am sometimes an idiot.
The families got on fine. The kids got on even better. Mack, my nine year old, and his almost ten year old girl cousin began to form a friendship immediately. They ran about the house for hours, making up new games to play, very loud games, that made animal noises, very loudly. Yes, it was worth saying twice. And they stayed up till midnight, talking by the Christmas tree while we threatened them to go to sleep. The bond was undeniable. I was thrilled. I was beaming. I have several cousins who will always be special to me. Our bonds have made it through years and years. I always feel a warmth and kindness and acceptance whenever we talk or, you know, facebook, the verb.
So in the glow of family and friendship colliding in my very own life, my Mack takes me aside. We are holding hands, crossing the parking lot after leaving a lovely Christmas light show at the zoo. He tells me, “Mom, I feel so comfortable around Casey (his cousin). We are having so much fun.”
“I am so happy son. It’s so nice you two are enjoying each other’s company.”
“Yes, Mom, we are so comfortable, I think I would like to marry her.”
And SCRREEEEECCCCH! What the… That’s what you got from all this love and Christmas spirit?! You need to marry your damn cousin? How did this joy turn into Alabama, the countryside, amongst the tree people? And what kind of example are my husband and I giving? I know we were cousins, but still… no one knew… seriously, what do you make of me? We are NOT cousins. That’s disgusting! THUS my confusion. Should I be glad he thinks my husband and I are so comfortable around each other?
With my internal emotional range jumping from place to place, I decide not to over-think. Speak decisively. Speak kindly. Speak respectfully. But good golly, Jethro, speak to the point, without overstating it’s actual viability. They are, in fact, only 9 and 10 years old.
“Well son, that’s wonderful that you like each other so much. But you can’t marry your cousin.”
“Why not, mom? I really want to.” I remind myself he said ‘marry’, not ‘have sex with’… cause that’s kind of what I heard.
Searching, searching… “The truth is, if you marry your cousin, your kids won’t have arms or legs. You can’t do it. Your genes are too close together in relation, so you wouldn’t want to put them in a gene pool together, you know, have kids.”
“Seriously, mom!! Your kids really won’t have arms and legs?!” He says in his incredulous voice, like I’m the one being ridiculous.
“Decidedly so, my dear.” What, am I Oliver Twist, all old English? But it IS Christmas. Make it count. “You shall never marry your cousin. It’s actually kind of gross.”
“Well, ok. That’s what Casey said too. She said it would be gross.” Oh good, we are the Alabama family. His cousin already KNEW that was F*ed up! One more big point for us tonight! But I still breathed a sigh of relief.
As I walked across the parking lot from the Christmas lights to our car, where the kids would drive me crazy for the next 45 minutes on the way home… As I walked from Christmas beauty to the claustrophic feeling of being very close to family in a small, loud car… I learned a lesson. No matter how beautifully a family holiday goes. No matter how pretty the present is wrapped. No matter how lovely you feel when something goes right, there is always the chance it will go poorly, end up being a puppy dog who bites, or bring you to the level of the tree people in Alabama who date their brothers and sisters… and cousin. So never brag, never be too sure you’ve achieved happiness and don’t ever mince words with your children when they suggest inter-family marriage.
But enjoy every minute. It’s still a good story, even if it makes you want to puke.
Oh, and always, like me, be the eternal optimist.