The Blue-Toed Nephew and Other Signs of Cousin Love

posted Thursday June 3rd, 2010

We are going through some serious cousin withdrawal in our house.

Our little fam flew to Denver this past weekend to spend a few days with my sister and her crew. Above is a rare species, the youngest cousin, Sam: The only blonde my sister’s had (her other two have their father’s dark hair) and the only one, at the moment, anyway, with blue toes.

The highlight (literally) of the weekend came when the model rocket we bought my older nephew Ben for his ninth birthday was successfully launched in a park. The box said it could go up 650 feet, and I think it did.

The lowpoint: Sex and the City 2, only made worse by the fact that it’s been at least 5 years since Jenny and I managed to sneak out kidless to see anything.

And in between, there was a lot of Cousin Love. It was a good visit, made better by the fact that Jenny, Ben and his younger sister Kate flew back to Phoenix with us.

I don’t have such good recall when it comes to the early days with Ben and Sam, but I remember exactly where I was when I first laid eyes on Kate. I was in a hospital bed in Mesa, Arizona, recovering from a C-section and the news I’d just received about my baby.

“Sophie has Down syndrome,” I said in one chunk as soon as Jenny picked up her cell.

“No fucking way.”


“I’m coming.”

Never mind that she lives two states over and at the moment had a two year old and her own newborn. Kate is Sophie’s senior by less than 7 weeks. (Ben and Annabelle have about the same age difference; when Jenny announced she was pregnant with Sam, everyone looked at me. But I was done.)

The next day, Jenny walked through the door of my hospital room, carrying Kate in her infant seat in the crook of her arm like an old lady carrying a purse. I was horrified that she’d bring a healthy baby into a hospital, but Jenny’s a social worker. To her, a hospital is just a place, not a creepy, scary germ den where people give you terrible news.   

We still have the toy radio Jenny grabbed at the hospital gift shop on her way up, and I’ll never forget her kindness in coming. (Don’t take a sister’s kindness for granted; we only barely tolerated one another til we both had kids.) When Sophie had heart surgery a few weeks later, she and Kate were back.

The kids all grew, even Sophie, and I suppose you’re not surprised to learn (and have read on this blog) that Annabelle and Kate developed a very close friendship. I adore Kate, and I treasure the bond these cousins have, but I do get melancholy when I see the cousin dynamic at play. The other girls include Sophie, somewhat. But it’s just not the same.

Check it out, here are the three girls, fresh from haircuts in Denver:

Kate and Annabelle are clearly contemporaries; I’m reminded, watching them, that the two-year difference doesn’t really matter. They sew together, tell stories, draw. They are BFF in a way I’m not sure Annabelle and Sophie will ever be, even with their own close relationship.

And Kate and Sophie don’t interact much, despite the fact that really, these are the two destined by age to be close.

Monday night, we all flew in and Kate spent the night at my house, while Jenny and Ben bedded down at my mom’s. Things went so well that I didn’t hesitate when the girls asked for a second overnight.

Here’s where I forget that Kate is only 7. Late in the evening she got teary, and asked for her mom. Jenny and I conferred by phone and decided Kate was overtired, and just needed a good night’s sleep. Jenny got on the phone with her. “You have my sister there!” she told Kate. “It doesn’t get any better than that!”

Kate bucked up, listening to a story and our good night song, and falling asleep in Annabelle’s room. (Sophie had konked out hours earlier, otherwise there would have been tears over where Kate was to sleep.)

At 5:30 the next morning, I heard a funny sound coming from Annabelle’s room. Kate was sobbing. I put her on the couch and turned on the television (the cure-all for everything in our family, Jenny’s included) and told her she’d see her mom soon.

I looked around for more distractions. Soon, one appeared in the doorway. Sophie, our early riser.  

“Kate is sad, Sophie,” I told her. “She misses her Mommy. Why don’t you cuddle with her?”

Sophie climbed on the couch, but Kate wasn’t having much of it. Oh well, I thought. We’ll just have to wait for Annabelle to get up. I left the room to make breakfast (food — another family distraction) and when I returned, I realized that Sophie and Kate were playing. They’d gotten out a pile of games, and were discussing which one they should play.

Just like peers.

For once I butted out and just listened from the next room. Kate wanted to play Hulabaloo. “No, that’s too loud. It will wake my sister up!” Sophie told her. They chose it anyway, and even sang the “Clean Up Song” and put everything away when they were done, completely unprompted. Half an hour later, they were still deep in conversation at the doll house.

Eventually, Annabelle rolled out of bed, and she and Kate resumed their spots at the art table, making intricate fashion designs abandoned the night before. Sophie curled up on the couch to watch TV, and I headed to the shower, basking in all the Cousin Love.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome, family, sisters by Amysilverman

2 Responses to “The Blue-Toed Nephew and Other Signs of Cousin Love”

  1. so sweet

  2. and gaga’s speechless…….with a wet face and runny nose. x

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