In this our city of brotherly love cousins are a dime a dozen.
I’ve got cousins coming out the wazoo, and I mean that in a good way. Anyone who grew up in Philadelphia when I did has cousins out the wazoo. Good cousins; bad cousins; boy cousins; girl cousins; boring cousins; scary cousins; cousins you only saw once; cousins who weren’t really cousins. And at the top of the list were first cousins, the cousins you saw all the time. First cousins were like brothers and sisters, only nicer.
Of course, when I was growing up, there were lots more brothers and sisters in each family. And as we all know from high school biology class, brothers and sisters are a leading cause of cousins. I grew up during the great Cousin Pandemic of the ’50s and ’60s when even washing your hands carefully couldn’t prevent an outbreak of blood relatives. Philadelphia’s population peaked during the post-World War II Baby Boom at just over 2 million people, most of whom were somebody’s cousin. And if my mom were still with us, she’d be able to tell you how each of those people were related to each other.
My first cousin Peter Fitzpatrick (not his real name) was born four days before I was at what they used to call Lying In Hospital at Eighth and Spruce. I used to resent him for those four days seniority but in recent decades I’ve taken to calling him my older cousin Pete. We celebrated a birthday this past week, Pete and I, no biggie, twice 30 (there I’ve said it) and we had a great party Saturday night where we were swarmed by cousins who buzzed in from California and Virginia and Rhode Island and up the street and around the corner. It was awesome. One of our girl cousins asked us about the four-day difference, “What happened nine months earlier?” Neither Peter nor I had ever done this calculation in our lives. Let’s see, mid-November minus nine months is mid-February. No way, we said. We’re Valentine’s Day babies! Life really is like a box of chocolates. You never know what cousins you’ll get.
– Clark DeLeon is a Philadelphia writer. More of his writing can be found at clarkdeleon.com.
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