Cousins are different beautiful flowers in the same garden.
Today is the birthday of my first cousin on my father’s side of the family. She is closer in age to my sister, however, as we have grown older that difference in age seems less. She was a marvelous pianist; I do not know if she still plays the piano or not, however, I always wanted to be able to play the way she did. She made every piano come alive with beautiful sound! Not only was she a great pianist but also a very intelligent and beautiful young lady who grew up to do many neat things, always remembering her roots; always helping others; always practicing the principles we grew up with that you give a good day’s work for a good day’s pay.
You have heard me speak of her mom who was a nurse. I remember how proud Aunt Ethlyn was of her daughter; I remember how lucky I thought she was to live with our grandparents and to have the undivided attention of so many adults who adored her. They dressed her in the cutest dresses and her hair was always shining like a halo around her head. She was valedictorian of her high school class. It was expected of her.
Life brought many challenges as well as opportunities to her. She not only faced them with integrity and grace but also with intellectual honesty while keeping true to her core values. She set an example for others to follow.
As the years passed, we did not see each other except at funerals. The age of growing up surrounded by close family has long since passed and now it seems that we see each other only when someone dies. I find this sad and wish for the days that we lived and played on brown dirt roads in the backwoods of Mississippi. It seemed a simpler, happier time.
Times change and we change, however, as she stated today “we have good friends but in the end family is who we want to be with.” I agreed with her. We seek out old friends and family because we share all the collected memories of our lifetime. As Robertson’s, we tend to find one spot and stay there…this seems to be in our genes….not for all of us but for some of us. Yet we wonder why we stay in towns where we have no family; we tell our self that we stay because we have so many good friends who are like family. Are we simply trying to convince our self of this? Why do we stay when life is so short and so little time seems to be left now to hear the stories of the past and what we did with our lives?
We have reunited through modern technology yet wish to have a physical reunion with what is left of our family. Will we choose to do this or will it be another funeral that brings us back together in the old cemetery across the road from the little church in the woods where all our ancestors keep watch? I wish I knew the answer.
I am reminded of “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, where the third act is set in the graveyard. Emily has died and the people in the graveyard are asking her if she were happy when she went back for her 12th birthday and she replies first to the Stage Manager…”No, take me back up the hill to my grave…” and to the people she states: “They don’t really understand, do they?”
Having directed “Our Town” three times in my lifetime, it seems that I still remember every line, every character. As I think of my cousin today, our place in time was very much like Grover’s Corners.As children we did not see our world from the “present” perspective. As old people now, we can see the world in the past tense and understand that we appreciate the past by understanding that we did not appreciate it while we lived it. As Emily asks the Stage Manager: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? –every, every minute?”
I never realized until recently that this cousin and I have more in common now than we did in the past. Our lives had twist and turns yet brought us back together at the right time and place for us to understand that we both lived and loved the past yet cannot go back because that place in time only exist in our memories. All the ones we loved wait and watch for us on that brown dirt road…to come home.
I think that Thornton Wilder’s point in this play is that whatever we do in this life we should do it with those that we love.
This is a strange tribute, perhaps to this cousin whom I love. However, my fingers have a mind of their own and this is what they wrote tonight.