Friday, August 26, 2011

Family by Birth, Friends by Choice by Leigh Kramer

Leigh is another one of the contributors to the Not Alone book and for that I am profoundly thankful. But aside from that, Leigh is following her dreams all the way to Nashville and I admire her bravery so much. She is a lovely writer and I'm so glad to have a chance to share her writing with you today!

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It wasn't easy being the only girl amongst the boys on my mom's side of the family. Granted, I was not the sole granddaughter but with Clara and Emily missing most of our celebrations, it was up to me to represent.

For the most part, the boys overlooked the girl in their midst.

There are good memories, like the time we all danced the Super Bowl Shuffle in my grandparent's basement. But if you'd told me two decades ago that I'd someday enjoy spending time with my boy cousins and willingly hang out with them, I would have offered my patented death glare and promptly returned to my book.

Leigh and her cousins
I'm not sure when or how it happened. Maybe college did a number on me. As it turned out, I actually liked my boy cousins. And they liked me back!

It's amazing what happens when we grow up.

For instance, my cousin Adam and I have always had a love-hate relationship. He brought out my competitive juices more than any other person. I delighted in skewering him with the perfect put-down, taking familial teasing to a new level.

And now, it's less hate and more love. I regularly declare him to be one of my favorite cousins. (I tell all my cousins they're my favorite.) We couldn't be more opposite. He's younger, married, a “Chreaster,” and a Slayer fan. Despite those differences, we'd do anything for each other.

There's depth as well. We talk through the ups and downs of life and discuss our doubts and dreams.

Without these young men, I'm not sure how I would have processed the death of our cousin Scottie at age 22. To be able to reflect on our losses together has been healing. We are a family that tends to laugh and joke but our response during difficult times serves to strengthen our bond. I'll never forget sitting at Grandma's wake when Jon turned to me and thanked me for all I'd done during her final days, the way my support had helped him and the rest of the family.

We relate to each other as adults. Some married, some with children, some still in college. Now that I live out of state, I cherish our time together even more.

I don't tolerate my cousins; I love them. I never doubt they love me back and want only the best for me.

Not every family is as blessed as ours. I rarely hear of people excited to return for the annual family reunion. Ours reached 200 people this July. While I love catching up with my second and third cousins, I made sure to have quality time with my favorite boys first and foremost.

My 10 year old self might not have believed that one day Jon would let me pull him on the dance floor at a wedding or that I would be one of the first people Patrick called after the birth of his daughter or that Zach would stand taller than me.

I'm glad our pre-pubescent selves don't decide who to keep in the family. Otherwise, we'd all be missing out.

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In May 2010, Leigh Kramer intentionally uprooted her life in the Chicago suburbs by moving to Nashville in an effort to live more dependently on God.  She writes about life in the South, what God has been teaching her, and her ongoing quest for the perfect fried pickle. You can follow her adventures on Twitter (www.twitter.com/hopefulleigh) and her blog HopefulLeigh (http://www.leighkramer.com).









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