This weekend I will find myself once again in wedding territory. I know! What the heck, you guys, right? All this love and stuff surrounding me. Shit is getting ANNOYING.
Ah, I kid. Shit keeps getting AWESOMER.
I’m pretty excited about Sunday’s event as my cousin Christine will be the beautiful bride. She is a regular reader of The Spectrum, a natural redhead and Tom’s oldest sister. I kept telling people this and then would go on to talking more about the wedding like “And then his other sister and then his brother” and everyone was like wait, how many kids are in Tom’s family?
Six, you guys. The answer is six. I know. They’re super cute, right?
Tom and his family were my closest relatives growing up (living only seven minutes away) and we went on family vacations and swam in their pool every day during the summer and went out to eat to celebrate birthdays and you can imagine the raised eyebrows we got everywhere we went as our two families together added up to ten children.
I KNOW. TEN. It’s like, more than the Von Trapps.
Christine is two month’s older than my brother Paul and with Tom and I close behind in age, the four of us spent quite a lot of time together. My childhood memories often involve the four of us, sometimes bickering (Tom & Christine), sometimes crying (Me) but mostly laughing. So much laughter. Sleepovers that made us laugh so hard and for so long that my mother would come barging into our rooms threatening to kill us all or send someone home or make us go to church for five hours the next morning.
Summers are the most vivid in my mind, probably because of school being out and the opportunity for those hysterica-inducing sleepovers. But there were also long afternoons in Tommy and Christine’s pool, silly rhymes we would make up as we jumped off the diving board, flips we would attempt, songs we would scream. I remember sitting at wooden picnic tables after a long afternoon of swimming, wrapped in a terrycloth beach towel, ponytail dripping water down my back as I dug into a hamburger, macaroni salad, watermelon, surrounded by my cousins.
I remember Christine pointing out that my hair was turning green, which it would, every summer thanks to the chlorine. It would get all slimey and there would be jokes about a swamp monster and it was funny but it stung because I was so envious of Christine’s hair. Perfect, beautiful red hair. I totally and completely worshipped everything about her. The way she walked, the way she talked, her likes and dislikes, tried so hard to claim them as my own. As if that would make me more cool, less gangly, less….green-haired swamp monster girl.
But it didn’t ever work. No matter how hard I tried, I was still myself, much to my 11 year old chagrin.
Sometimes before dinner, we’d jump on our bicycles and go cruising around the neighborhood, Christine as leader. We’d follow her through the winding shady streets of Port Jefferson, past the houses with sprinklers in the yard, past the babies in the kiddie pools. We’d pick out our favorite houses, our favorite street names. Other times we would ride in silence, listening only to our feet pumping down on the pedals, some lazy crooning birds, crickets, bike tires zooming over pebbles and sand.
Christine is summer. Of that I can be sure. Jumping into the deep end, passing me a hot dog, giggling hysterically in the backseat of her dad’s van on the long drive upstate.
I see her now only on special occasions, family parties or Christmas as she and her soon-to-be-husband now live in Massachusetts. Seeing her brings all those things back to me, little pieces at a time, jumping into a lake in Cooperstown, riding Space Mountain three times in a row, the barrettes in her beautiful hair. Sometimes when I think about the fact that she’s getting married on Sunday, I can’t believe it’s actually allowed. I mean, surely she’s still too young, right?
But she isn’t.
She’s grown. And she’s lovely. And when I see her, it’s like no time has passed at all.
In my mind, we’re still small. Still ripping open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve, singing happy birthday as she blows out the candles on a cake, playing freeze tag on her front lawn as the fireflies flickered around us in the summer dusk.
My childhood. My happiness.
And maybe someday soon, we’ll jump on a bicycle for old times’ sake. We’ll ride around and around, so much taller and stronger than we ever have been. Adults, now. People who have jobs and apartments and husbands and different sorts of dreams.
But underneath, we’re still the same. Pumping those pedals, flying down hills, the beautiful red-haired girl and the gangly blonde swamp monster.
Congratulations, little Cheeko. You will be a most beautiful bride.
Me, Christine, Paul