Cousins

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At family reunions, how wonderful it is to meet up with so many familiar faces.

Cousins, in particular, share a unique relationship and i’ve been blessed with a lot of them – especially on my mum’s side. Mum was one of six children, so the martin clan is numerous. Dad only had a sister so the cousin yield on the wighton side is smaller, though still precious. Somehow, cousins represent the comfort of family, the familiarity, without the overwrought closeness of immediate kin, which can be both wonderful and overwhelming.

Whenever I spend time with my cousins, I recognise the unique thumbprint, those genes that bring us all together. On Mum’s side, fair hair, freckled skin, blue eyes – in some of us these traits are fading with the passing of the years, but they still embody the physical evidence of our shared blood.

There’s proof of the power of blood when we get together and share old memories and old photos. We’re a water tribe – we Martins – and we have music and creativity in our DNA. I feel the catch in my heart when I see my mother’s beautiful face in faded family photos. Echoes of this face sometimes startle me in my own mirror these days.

The thing about cousins is that we recognise our parents in them – the shape of a fingernail, a wry smile, the sound of a laugh. We know these things and they sing to our own blood. Whatever vagaries exist between our mum or dad and their siblings, somehow the cousin relationship retains an integrity and an easy pleasure all its own.

In photos I see my cousin Barb. How to reconcile that whiteblonde-haired little girl with her long, tanned legs, stretching astride her brother Keith’s bike, with the mature woman who now has children and grandchildren of her own? But those ocean-blue eyes and the lanky good looks – the genetic hallmark of the Martins – they’re still there.

Like any family, we’ve had our share of both joy and tragedy – two of mum’s brothers, my uncles, were incarcerated in Changhi; my cousin Keith’s daughter died young – I sang at her wedding – all of us aching in the knowledge that this beautiful young woman wouldn’t be staying long.

But the happy memories somehow outweigh the sorrows. And when we get the chance we cousins delight in remembering the good times – the joyous family Christmas parties at Auntie Audrey’s house – Mum and her five siblings singing in close harmony around the piano.

Mum’s parents, my nana and papa, beers in hand, smiling benevolently over us all. I have vivid memories too of regular visits to Redcliffe to stay with the Martins – Mum’s brother Uncle Ted, Aunty Audrey, and my cousins – the old skating rink on the pier and the salty air streaming in from the bay. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a willing hostage to those original ties that bind us deep and close to immediate family.

But I’m ever so fond of my tribe of cousins.