The cousins. Fourteen of them representing three generations. They came, yesterday, for a birthday lunch with my mother, who turns 91 today.
They came with flowers and cookies and photographs. They came with delicious Polish babka, three kinds of home made pierogi, and good spirits, wishes, and love.
We notice that we are mostly female — not suprising, since we have always known that our clan is a matriarchy. The only males at the party were my brother, a first cousin, and a cousin by marriage (who took a videotape of the rest of us gathered around my mother singing both Happy Birthday and Sto Lat. ) Only the older ones of us remember the words to Sto Lat, the Polish version of “may you live a hundred years.” When my generation is gone, so will go the memory of those words. Our kids have married into other nationalities — great for genes, not necessarily so for native traditions and languages.
We were a noisy group, but then we always are when we get together. My mother, being somewhat deaf, couldn’t sort out background from foreground conversations; she sat in her favorite rocking chair and watched and smiled.
She is the oldest of her clan. Here is a photo of her with the youngest in attendance, her great grandniece, Olivia.
Today, she’s very tired, a little disoriented. She keeps reading through her birthday cards, crying because she misses my dad.
I have blogged before about how, as I get older, my ties to my family become stronger. Before my cousins left for home yesterday, we shared emails, vowed to get together at least several times a year. My mother is the last of her sibling generation, which, when they were all alive, held family gatherings at the drop of a hat.
Now it’s up to us. The cousins.