Today is the third anniversary of the passing of my cousin Maria. I’m not ashamed to say that she was my favorite cousin when I was growing up. She was pretty, fun and always, always smiling. That’s how I knew her and that’s how I remember her.
Granted, we were kids and my family lived in Poughkeepsie and they lived in Staten Island. Times were different back then. Both my mom’s side and my dad’s side got together, separately, for every holiday. Every holiday. Every major holiday, minor holiday, many birthdays and anniversaries, parties, weddings- even my Aunt Loretta’s (yes, Loretta Berretta, but that’s a whole different story) dog’s annual birthday party were all held in Brooklyn, and we were all there.
I’m pretty sure I spent enough time in Brooklyn to be considered an honorary resident. I had a lot of cousins and we were all very close. We always gathered at our grandparents house and we all spent many nights scattered on living room couches, floors and pull out beds- laughing, fighting, pranking. There were nine of us on my dad’s side and I was right in the middle.
Yes…times were different then.
My memory is not my greatest asset, but there are a few things I do remember about my cousin. Mostly her smile and her loud, contagious laugh. I’m pretty sure that anybody who was around her, always felt good or at least better. Sadly, she went through some tough times. Like many people who appear to be perfect on the outside, she struggled for a long time, on the inside. Eventually, she got herself back on track. She started reaching out to her family and we were able to reconnect. It was almost like she knew what was going to happen. One of the last things she said to me was how she couldn’t believe our kids don’t know us as cousins. The bonds we had. How close we all were. Like many other families nowadays, we’re all scattered now. My kids rarely see their cousins in Arizona. They’ll never know what our childhood was like.
Thankfully, I did get to tell my cousin Maria about my daughter Maria and that she was a big part of why I chose the name for her. She got very sick shortly after that. She came down with double pneumonia and just couldn’t fight her way out of it. Unfortunately, they never met, but my Maria knows who she is and always talks about her.
So yes, my cousin is gone three years today. She made me realize that people are not always as they appear and tomorrow is not promised to anyone and most importantly, life is short. I’ll never understand why people make big issues out of small problems.
Maybe not so coincidently, today is also the one year anniversary of my blog, so this one is for my cousin, who I miss- and for all of my cousins, who made growing up in a big, crazy, Italian family so fun and memorable.