Monday, December 28, 2009

"Country" Cousins

Sometimes an email arrives unexpectedly with the sudden tangibility of loved memory -- like the message today from Elizabeth, one of my "country" first cousins. Pictured here with Ruth, I'd know them anywhere even though I haven't seen them in years. "Twin," I used to call each of them, to needle them despite always being able to tell one from the other. Now Ruth looks so much like our mothers' families that I see her mother and mine and our mothers' mother in her face.

In childhood, their parents moved the family clan to Eutaw, Alabama, where, on occasion, we visited. I remember the circular pebble drive; the brick-and-white-columned, central-hall house; the high ceilings and black-dirt heat; the pecan trees (how delicious the big bag was at Christmas) and old chicken coops; and the tales of cows and hunting and trucks, such romantic mysteries to me. The sleepy town square and the antebellum homes, some grand and others failing, the unrest between white and black citizens in the era of the Civil Rights struggle -- all were part of my imagined "country cousin" life. I remember as well my Aunt Ellen's deep voice and rolling laugh, my Uncle Mack's freckled crown and red-brown eyes, the kids everywhere (there were six in their family). I loved going to visit and play with my exotic kin raised far away from the big city suburban life I knew.

How welcome Elizabeth's email with her references to Roanoke where our grandparents began and ended their lives and to my father's Christmas-time Santa Claus. How beautiful she and Ruth are. How strong are the memories and the family bond still. How healing and joyous the Internet can be.

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