Alice and my mothers were sisters who looked alike and sounded alike. But Alice and I look nothing like the first-cousins we are: she takes after her father's side of the family and I my father's. Our love of spoon bread, cheese straws, our grandmother's garden, family stories and traditions, and now Sewanee make us kindred spirits if not close like the cousinship my niece's and nephew's children enjoy.Growing up, I always found Alice's house in Eutaw exotic. The curving drive, pecan trees, outbuildings, columns, and surrounding countryside; the sleepy downtown, complete with square; the fields of cotton; the red dirt -- all bespoke "the south" in ways Birmingham and my suburb never did. I held a romantic notion of where and how she and her five siblings and parents lived. We called them our "country cousins," an amusing appellation as they were never entirely "country" and none live "in the country" any longer.
All families, I suppose, begin like a surprise ball -- tightly wound, all of a unit -- that over time unwinds to surprises, some welcome, some not. No matter how unwound, stretching further and further out from the center, family is still family, as Alice's brief visit proved.
We may not see it when we look in our mirrors, but blood is blood.