“Cousins of All Kinds,” March 8, 2022

Family ties are formed in various ways. Some are connected by blood. Others are created by choice. But the best ones are bound together by love.

Charlotte and Henry live hours apart and barely know each other. About the only thing they have in common (besides being 10 years old, seriously cute and incredibly smart) is this: Some years ago, Charlotte’s grandpa and Henry’s nana fell in love and decided to get married.

I’m that nana. My husband is Papa Mark. Our marriage formed a “blended” family that includes us, our children (my three, his two), their spouses, and nine grandchildren, so far.

Some of us live closeby, others are miles away. We all try to get together at least once a year, usually for Thanksgiving, yet somehow, it’s not always possible. Funny, isn’t it, how quickly a year goes by?

But recently, my husband’s son and his wife brought Charlotte and her brother and sister (Archer is 5, Beatrix is 3) to visit us. We all went out to dinner with my daughter and Henry and had to sit at a long table that made it hard to talk, even for big talkers like us.

Charlotte and Henry sat across from each other barely speaking until Papa Mark made them laugh. He’s good at that. Then the food showed up and we all talked and laughed for an hour.

Bea climbed up in my lap and said, “I have something that’s very, very exciting to tell you!”

“What is it?” I said. And she whispered, “I love you!”

I felt like Nana of the Year.

The next day, Charlotte asked me, “What’s the difference in first and second cousins?”

I wasn’t sure how to explain it, but I tried. Then she asked, “Is Henry my second-cousin?”

“No,” I said. “Technically, you are cousins by marriage. Papa Mark and I got married, so we get to share you. But cousins are just cousins, the way family is family and friends are friends. They’re not firsts or seconds. They’re just people we love.

She smiled. Then I told her a story about me and my cousins.

My mother’s parents had 10 children, all married, some more than once, and 22 grandchildren. Our big, crazy family gathered at their home most every Sunday to smoke and joke and argue and eat fried chicken, corn on the cob and banana pudding. It was good.

After we ate, the girl cousins sat on the steps singing hymns and laughing at the boy cousins who ran around the yard trying to kill each other with sticks. It felt a lot like Heaven on Earth.

I wish you could’ve seen us.

The point of that story is this: A good family is the gift of a lifetime. And cousins can make family life a whole lot more fun.

Charlotte laughed at my story. Especially the part about the boy cousins. Then she told me all about her neighborhood.

It’s a lovely community of homes built along a winding creek where in summer families float on inner tubes, stopping along the way to share a drink or a meal with their neighbors.

“I have so many friends who live there!” Charlotte said. “And we do so many fun things!”

I watched her face light up as she talked about their Fourth of July parade, trick-or-treating on Halloween, parties at Christmas, riding bikes and sharing stories. She and a few kids her age even formed their own bookclub.

I’ve seen that same excitement in my other grandchildren when they talk about their friends—going to sleepovers (where no one sleeps), playing in the park or chasing each other around somebody’s back yard.

They don’t have 22 “real” cousins. But they have friends who feel like cousins, and a few cousins-by-marriage who make family gatherings more fun.

Best of all, they have a big, crazy “blended” family that is bound together by love.

And we hardly ever try to kill each other with sticks.


  1. Wrennah Gabbert says

    Thank you again Sharon!❤️

  2. Love is love whether blood ties or through marriage. I just think thete are more people to love you! ❤️

  3. Shirley Southerland says

    You know, that’s the way it should be. My grandparents lived in the country and some of the nine children stayed in the area. One was in WWl, one went to Detroit to work. They had no children. The rest did. I had cousins!! And we met almost every Sunday at Grandma’s and Dad’s, that’s what we all called him!We cousins had so much fun together!! Grandma died too soon with pneumonia years before penicillin. About 7 years later Dad had a stroke , confined to a wheelchair, helpless. One Uncle had diphtheria as an infant & suffered brain damage and couldn’t learn at school but was strong as a horse, so he helped Dad with all the chores on the farm through the years. He was so devoted to Dad he learned how to take care of his Dad. One son, up the road, brought food his wife cooked every day or my handicapped uncle would ride his bike up to get it. Never a phone or running water in the house.No heat but from wood cook stove and two fire places back to back on same chimney, one in the dinning room, one in the living room. They lived for years like this until Dad died. My Uncle died of diabetes just a couple years later. However, Harry Gant’s parents gave him work to do, fed him and took him everywhere they went and to Stock car races! Harry was a champion driver! My Uncle had known them all his life. They told me stories I had never heard about my Uncle who they incorporated into their family those last years of his life, so he wouldn’t be alone.

    But going back to Cousins. They were my brothers and sisters I never had until I was almost seven. As country kids , we had so much fun wadding in creeks, walking through woods, picking cotton, riding with Dad on his wagon. He bought me BB bats, kits, and liquorice twist & pipes and hot as fire jaw breakers at the General Store!
    Sorry to say, we don’t get together like that nowdays. I’m the only cousin left on my maternal side. Four of us left on my paternal side…but scattered far apart and all our children have scattered in many directions and closer to their partner’s famlies. You are so fortunate to have your blended families together. That was my dream.
    That’s why I love you and your columns.

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