I spent Thanksgiving up in NH, with family. It was a gathering of around 30 people, mainly of the Irish Catholic persuasion. I am used to this. While my immediate family is sort of an Irish Catholic anomaly (there are only three of us kids), my dad was one of eight, which means that the first half hour of any family gathering is spent trying to remember the names of all your first cousins, to say nothing of your first cousins once removed.
When you’re an adult, these gatherings are generally spent catching up on who died, who’s got gout, who’s in the hospital, and who’s going to be too drunk to drive home. When you’re a kid, anything goes, especially if you’ve got at least 20 cousins with whom to go there.
Last night, little Aidan was shooed out of the playroom and told to join his 15 or so cousins at that semi-desolate island known as “the kids’ table.” “Go on…get in there with your cousins,” his mother told him, “Go make some memories.”
That struck me. When I was a kid, I don’t think anyone put it to me in quite that way. It was more: “Jesus H, you’re drivin’ me crazy…go outside, the lot of yuh. Mother-a-GAWD.” But, really, weren’t we similarly being encouraged to make memories? I mean, invariably we were going up to someone’s bedroom and daring one another to eat dog biscuits. But it’s a MEMORY, RIGHT?
I feel bad sometimes that I didn’t have a couple of kids of my own, to unleash into the vortex of cousins once they were old enough to know the difference between a cookie and a dog biscuit. Because that’s where roughly 65% of my great Life Lessons were learned. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child, it takes that village’s cousins. Your first dirty joke? You learned it from a cousin. Your first urban-legend-as-gospel truth, the story that’s going to keep you up nights for months? Your cousin told it to you. And don’t get me started on the infinite variations on common expletives.
I hope Aidan did make some memories last night.