Monday, February 06, 2006

Growing up Cousins

Remember in grade school science, trying experiments where a concoction of baking soda and vinegar would be mixed. Once the two different components would mix it would cause an outburst of madness. That is how I would describe my cousins. My aunts, uncles, and parents as individuals seem relatively normal, depending on your definition of “normal”. But once the genes combine to make “the cousins”, it is a whole different story. My cousins have ways of bonding together in both destructive and connected manners.

Take a typical thanksgiving, for a typical American family. They might have their typical turkey, typical “giving thanks”, and typical thanksgiving dinner as a whole. In my family our thanksgiving is far from typical. A usual attendance will consist of about 30 to 35 individuals, all of whom live within an hour of each other. We celebrate the holiday in our church because of the large outcome. My mom and aunt set up festive table decorations to get ready for dinner. Of course our dinner has certain elements of a traditional thanksgiving meal, with a little twist. After the food is blessed then the cousins shout in one chorus the line, “NOT TURKEY AGAIN”! This is one of those traditions that you never really know how it got started, but it has always seemed to stick. The dinner usually will go on in a traditional manner, but this year something else happened. Somehow at the end of dinner the family broke into a, “who can hold their arms up the longest contest”. It was pretty intense, and ended with lots of laughter and an awesome memory. This might seem like an odd way of bonding as a family, but the real madness doesn’t begin until every last bite of mashed potatoes and stuffing is gone.

After the dinner all “the kids”, who range from 5 to 25, retire to the gym area of our church building. This is where we play a little game we like to call, “Shoe War”. If you are familiar with the game dodge ball you might be able to understand the basic concepts of “Shoe War”. Essentially there are two teams, one on each side of the gym. Every cousin playing will remove their shoes and place them in the center of the gym. Next they will retreat to the back walls of the gym and face the wall. Someone will throw a pair of keys behind their back; at the sound of the keys dropping the game will begin. Everyone runs to the middle trying to grab shoes before the other team does. Suddenly shoes will be flying throughout the air in every direction. At times if gets very difficult to know what I am even going to do. Am I going to try and get someone out by hitting them with a shoe, or just merely watch out for my own self and work on dodging the speeding stilettos coming straight for me. At often times having to dodge behind the piles of tables and chairs. It is funny to see the little kids trying so hard to be brave, and if they do get hit they need to make sure not to cry. Rule number 1 states: if you cry during a shoe war, you are disqualified from playing for three years. I know, my cousins and I sound like horribly atrocious people, but it really sounds much worse then it actually is. Well, at least that is until we get bored with the shoe war and decide to continue on to the next game, “extreme fruit basket”.

Fruit basket is a game similar to musical chairs. There is one less person than there are chairs in a circle. Everyone is assigned to be a banana, strawberry, apple, or orange. The person in the center will call out a fruit, anyone with the corresponding fruit must try to find a new chair before they are unable, and are stuck being the caller in the middle. This isn’t just any little game of fruit basket…it is extreme. Not exactly a game that you would want a kindergartener playing. This year we even got a tape of one of my cousins being brutally thrown across the gym because a very determined person wanted her chair. She had a hard time getting off the ground, but that is merely because she couldn’t contain her exuberant laughter. After our thanksgiving we go home bruised and battered. Although it seems unlikely, this was actually a very bonding experience. But not all my bonding experiences with my cousins are violent and disruptive. There are also many evidences of where we bond as a family through connectedness.

The Seattle Mariners, although not always the superior team in baseball, will always bring me so many great cousin memories. During baseball season all the cousins would hop on the metro bus and go to The Kingdome, the playing field of the Mariners. Surprisingly our parents would somehow allow us to do this, often, unsupervised. Once we made it safely to the stadium we would buy the very cheapest five dollar tickets. Every game we would sit in the same section 317. We chose this section because we would always be the only people in it. Also it was a prime spot to be noticed, to appear on the diamond vision, or the T.V. score board. As a collective unit of about 10 to 15 cousins we would make oodles of posters, mostly recognizing our favorite players; Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., and the underappreciated Brian Hunter, or as we like to call him, Mr. Hunter Brian. At one particular game we made bright posters bearing the words, “LET’S GET FIRED UP”. With this particular game we appeared on the diamond vision 13 times. It was just the appreciation we felt we deserved after all of our years of supporting the Mariners. During this time then Mariners was our life. We would attend a game almost every week, and when we weren’t at the games, all we would do was talk about how excited we were for the next game. The day that the Kingdome was imploded, I felt as though my memories were being destroyed with it. Now looking back on those days I see that it really isn’t about the actual building, but the bonds that we created within that stadium, and that they are strong bonds that would take more that dynamite to destroy.

It may sound as though my cousins and I am somewhat crazy, which may be true. I believe that it is really okay if we might connect in both destructive and connected manners. Looking at two of the example of the bonds forming between my cousins, I had an epiphany that what is really holding us together is the spirit of competition. Whether it is competing against each other, or us forming together as a unit to compete against the world, It all comes down to us becoming as a community and using competition as our connection.

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