I have twelve cousins on my dad’s side of the family. There are 14 of us total and I am 7th in the birth order. The age difference between the oldest and youngest is almost exactly 30 years and we’re pretty evenly spaced over that time. Even with this significant age span, we’re a close bunch. Our relationships morph and change over the years as we go through different periods in our lives and move across the country and around the world, but we all get along and look forward to the time we spend together, whether it’s at Waterton or Christmas or other visits throughout the year.
My oldest cousin, Molly, passed away suddenly four years ago. Since then, I’ve tried hard to hold on tight to every memory I have of her.
…One year at Waterton, she rented a surrey with my cousin Emily and I, who must have been about 10 and 9 at the time. We weren’t quite tall enough to reach the pedals, so she had to do most of the hard work. She knew we really wanted to go for a ride, though, and we needed a grown up to take us, so she offered.
…She always made me feel special when I was younger by telling me how cool it was that we had the same initials.
…Molly was the first person to explain divorce and step-parents to me, long before I gained firsthand knowledge. Looking back on our conversation now, I know how hard it must have been for her to explain to someone so young what it’s like to have two families, and I’m particularly grateful for her patience with me.
…I remember when she explained to me what an Irish claddagh ring was, what it symbolized, and I bought one soon after that because I wanted to be like her and wear it all the time.
…She came through Missoula one time when I was in high school and visited us. She had just been in the hospital for what sounded like a stroke and had just started taking blood thinners. She had a few bruises on her legs and arms and I remember thinking how incredibly upbeat she was. She told me the bruises were a little annoying but she felt like a million bucks.
…In every single memory I have of my cousin Molly, she was happy, laughing and overflowing with charisma. I thought of her as someone who was always looking for the next adventure and I admired her in so many ways.
On December 4th, just ten days ago, my cousin Kevin and his wife Jen had a baby girl. And they named her Molly.
As my cousins have started having kids, I love spending time with the babies and talking to their parents about what life is like with children. I look forward to many years of being the fun older cousin who teaches the little ones new games and buys them ice cream when their parents aren’t looking. I’m sure I’ll tell them stories that will bore them to tears sometimes, but hopefully I’ll also be the person they invite to sit at the kids table at Thanksgiving because the rest of the grown ups are so boooooring.
And I hope with all my might that Molly, Eamon and Liam (who are all babies and toddlers now) are there for my kids when their feet can’t reach the pedals.