A certain awesomeness pervades a room filled with four generations of the same family. Guests, from the youngest (often the center of attention) to the oldest (often the most staid) seem to take on greater significance than they would have as single visitors.
When my brand new grandson Patrick Lawrence visited my home for the first time last week, relatives (whose birth dates spanned from 1927 to 2011) greeted him. The age span of those of us seated around the dining room table was one month to 85 years.
More than a few times I overheard someone say, “I can remember when . . ..," question, “Where does the time go?” and declare, “It seems like only yesterday.” Time seemed to stand still as Patrick was carefully placed into his Great-Grandmother’s arms, the matriarch and the infant sharing the distinction of the most fragile in the room.
The one-year-old at the get-together didn’t seem to mind no longer being “the youngest,” as she toddled from room to room, her Nonni following right behind. The child was too interested in knobs she had never turned and steps she had never climbed. My own memories of being one of the youngest in a gathering such as this have faded, but I can recall each of my nieces and nephews' welcome-to-the-family visits , along with, of course, my children’s. All but one of these took place over twenty years ago.
It was a member of the younger (as opposed to youngest) set – Patrick’s mother’s cousin - who asked, “And what is he to me?” No question as to who is an aunt and who is an uncle. Easy figuring out first cousins too. But Patrick’s family tie to his parents’ first cousins -- and then the first cousins' children -- is where the nomenclature starts to get tricky. Are they second cousins? Or third? Are they cousins once- or twice - removed?
“I think he’s my second cousin,” another first cousin to Patrick’s Mom offered, before we all went back to ooohhing and aaahhing and passing Patrick from one eager pair of arms to the next. I'll have to look up the terminology. I've done it before - but it never sticks, In the meantime, "sweetest little cuz in the whole world" will do.
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