When I was a kid, we went to Little Rock every Memorial Day to see my Dad's family. He was the oldest of eight kids with six sisters and a brother.
"Mom, which aunt is that?" I would whisper to my mother when no one was looking. She always told me who's who, but no matter how many years we returned, I never got my aunts straight until I was grown.
Now with 16 first cousins and eight second cousins, my younger kids have the same problem with remembering who's who in the family. And living 1300 miles away doesn't help.
I started a "Family Bulletin Board" and hung it in the hallway just off the kitchen. Anytime we get a new picture of the cousins, it goes on the board. Every so often I see one of my kids studying the pictures, trying to put faces with names.
"Is that Uncle Rusty?" my daughter, Mary, asks.
"Well, that is Rusty," I laugh, "but he isn't your uncle, he's your cousin. He is the son of my oldest sister, your Aunt Debbie. In fact," I continue, unaware that Mary's eyes have glazed over with Too Much Information, "he is the oldest of all the cousins. I was just eight years old when he was born."
That bit of history brought her back to the moment. "You became an aunt when you were EIGHT?"
"Yes. And then your cousin Brian was born just two weeks later."
"He has the twins?" Emma chimes in.
"That's right!" I exclaim, delighted over a correct answer.
Their confusion is understandable considering the distance between us. But recently, family confusion has been taken to a new level.
First, when my daughter-in-law's mother came over for a visit a few weeks ago.
"Dorothy," she said to my six year old daughter, "I have pictures of Tiger kayaking down in Florida with Becky."
Dorothy looked confused. "Tiger was kayaking?"
"Tiger, your brother," said Heather. "You know, you were in their wedding last summer?"
"Oh, oh!" said Dorothy. "I thought you were talking about Tiger our cat."
Dorothy sees Tiger the cat a lot more often than she sees Tiger her brother so I guess that is understandable.
And just a few days ago, I was talking about cousin Louanna from the other side of the family and how her birthday is coming up.
"I thought that cousin Louanna had died," Cory said. "Isn't that the same as Cousin Fernie?"
This is serious.
"No, no, no," I laughed. "Cousin Luanna is alive and well. Cousin Fernie has died many times of many ailments. Fernie isn't real, Louanna is. And her birthday is coming up." We all had a good laugh, just as we always do over family confusion.
But at least one thing is always clear: A whole lotta' family means a whole lotta' love. And there is no confusion about that.
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