#8 – Cousins, or We are Family

Well that happened quickly.

It’s over before you know it.  It seems like it just started.  It was only just Thanksgiving and now here it is January 1st, 2016.  It’s over, Christmas and New Year’s, all of it.  It’s just a regular old day today, just that less stores are open and there is football on all day.

I don’t have a hangover (I haven’t had one in over 3 1/2 years) which is more fun than having one.  I haven’t had a drink on New Year’s Eve in at least 3 years, which is not as fun as having some.

I feel like time went slower when I was a kid, especially the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  When you want time to pass quickly it does not seem to, especially when you are a kid.  The wait for Christmas was interminable, with Advent and the candles and the church and the desert animals and the Nativity and the manger and the North Star and midnight mass and God and the baby Jesus.  We had to wade through all of that stuff just to get to the good part – the presents.  Our family had St. Nicholas day thrown in there which was something, a little teaser before the big day, but still, a kid waiting for Christmas is like watching a pot of water boil or waiting for paint to dry.  You know it’s going to happen but it feels like it never will.

“The days are long but the years are short” is a quote I’ve seen on the internet.  It’s one of the truest things I’ve ever read.

Those days of waiting where so long and so long ago but are fresh and vivid in my memory still.  There are many, many days between then and now.  It was so long ago and seems like yesterday all at once.  30+ years in the blink of an eye.

For me now the days between barely even register.  I don’t really think or notice the days anymore.  Days are mostly the same now, broken up by a few hectic holidays off of work.  I don’t really need them, but the kids love them of course, and that is something.

“The more things change the more they stay the same” is another quote I like.  I looked on the internet and it’s attributed to some 19th century French writer.  Whatever, but it’s true.  I can remember how disappointed I felt after Christmas was over.  New Years was done quickly after that.  It was all over.  Back to school then, with nothing but the long winter ahead.  But right before that there was always something that kept Christmas alive, if even for one day.

*                                             *                                              *

I have a lot of cousins.  On my maternal side alone there are 22 of them.  I’m sure that’s not a record or anything but that is still a big number, yes?  For comparisons sake I have 3 cousins on my paternal side.

Big deal, though, everyone has a cousin.  Unless you are an only child who of two only children who marries an only child and have only one kid who marries an only child and only have one kid and on forever you are going to have a cousin.  Even still there has to be someone back in the chain who is like an eighth cousin twice removed or something.  Everyone has a cousin.

I think we’re probably all cousins at some point if you were able to track your genealogy back far enough.  Think about that but don’t think about it too hard it will make your head hurt.

I’m sure I could check one of those genealogy websites or whatever to see how far back I can get but I think they cost money.  For me and my cousins we only go back so far.  I’m pretty sure that neither side of my family has been in the US for much longer than 100 years or so.  I know there has to be people with our names and faces in places like Italy or Poland and whatever the Czech Republic may have been called back then (the Bohemian Empire?  Austrian-Hungarian Empire?  Holy Roman Empire?  Who can know?)

The history that I know, having been told or remember, is even more recent than that.  It starts in and around the 1940’s.

Joe n Lorraine
Joe and Lorraine, back in the day

 

From the maternal side it start with Joe and Lorraine, the grandparents.

It’s a whole thing and I only know or remember parts.  The beginning is not so unique.  Boy meets girl.  Boy marries girl.  Boy goes to war and comes back.

I’m not even sure if that’s the right order.  Regardless, Joe and Lorraine got married and started having kids.  Once they started they did not stop for awhile.  8 girls and 1 boy later Joe and Lorraine became the Pleshars.

The Pleshars lived on the South Side of Chicago.  I have a kid and I can barely imagine having 2 let alone 9.  It must have been crazy in that house on Trumball Ave. but fast forward to today and they all have seemed to come through it ok.

They grew up, the Pleshars, and started getting married and having kids of their own (not always necessarily in that order.)  I’m obviously in there somewhere as are my 22 cousins.

As the Pleshars expanded it became harder to have holidays that included everyone.  The girls and the boy had families and in-laws and their own traditions to start.  A Christmas gathering with all of them must have become a logistic nightmare.  I don’t know when it started, but soon the Pleshar Family Christmas was born.  I always held onto the Pleshar Family Christmas as the final end to the season.  I would always tell myself there was one more event even though the excitement of Christmas and New Years had passed.  When I was really young I remember it being one last chance at presents until my birthday, four long months away in April.

I think most of the early ones were at the house on the South Side.  Even then the Pleshars had grown so big that buying presents for everyone would have bankrupted even the most financially secure of the Pleshars (lord knows my mother tried) so at some point the Pleshar grab bag began.  They called it Kris Kringle or something, and all the names were put into a hat or a bag on Thanksgiving.  The adults drew an adult name and the cousins drew a kid name and that was the person you would buy a gift for.  You would have to keep it secret for an entire month.  There were only 6 cousins plus me and my three siblings back then, but even then it seemed like a lot.

Lorraine died in 1987, I think.  The brief months from diagnosis around Thanksgiving 1986 to death in May 1987 are forever burned into my consciousness.  Burned and sometimes buried, but whatever or wherever they are Lorraine’s death was a seminal moment in the history of this Pleshar family.  I can only speak for myself, but things were not the same after that.  That is not to say they were bad necessarily.  Just different.

Grandmas death was a hell of a thing.

There were 7 cousins when Lorraine died, one having just been born.  Even though Gail was alive before Lorraine died I feel like she is the line between the cousins.  Every cousin before her is the older cousin.  Ever cousin after here is the younger cousin.  Gail is the start of them.

So changes, of course, but the same.  The Pleshar Family Christmas continued and continues.  From the original 6 to the 22.  I wish the other 16 had had a chance to know Lorraine.  But she lives on in them whether they know it or not.  The Pleshar Family Christmas is one of the ways that we can all see her still.

We grew up too, the cousins.  Some of them are still growing.  We range in age from 47 to like 10 or 11.  First cousins!  A lot of us have gotten married and some of us have kids of our own.  I have first cousins once removed who are older than some of my cousins.

Cousinhood is an interesting dynamic and relationship.  Cousins have a commonality and a history.  Not quite siblings but more than just friends.  I think the cousin relationship can be tenuous at times.  It can be a super close one.  It can be forced.  Some cousins are close.  Some are complete strangers.  My wife has cousins.  Most of them she has not seen in close to twenty years.  Not so much with the Pleshar cousins.

The Pleshar cousins are and will forever be an expanding group.  I have stopped making a distinction between cousins, cousin in laws, cousin’s removed, step cousins, etc.  For me it’s easier and more accurate to the Pleshar mentality for us all to just be cousins.

If you add them all up with the cousins in laws, etc. that I would just call cousin there are 50 of us.  There used to be 51.

One of my cousin’s died by suicide a few years back.

That was a hell of a thing.

We’re a man down.

That’s all I have to say about that at this moment.

Damn.

I have at least four cousins (once removed) who are 18 years old or older.  It may be sooner or later, but at some point they may begin to have families of their own.  Those kids will be something like cousins x2 removed.  I’ll probably just think of them as cousins.

So these years later the Pleshar Family Christmas lives on.  Joe has since passed, but the Pleshar family continues to expand at an exponential rate.  I wonder how long it will keep going, both the Pleshars and the Christmas.  At some point the original 9 Pleshar sibs will be gone and so will the 22.  I don’t know that in 50 years or whatever there will still be a Pleshar family Christmas.

There will always be cousins, though, whether they know it or not.

The thing my cousins don’t know, all 51 of them, is that I think about all of them from time to time.  Even the ones who may only have a vague notion of who I am.  Even the ones who may not be entirely sure of my name at all, or that I exist.  Regardless, I keep track of all of them.  Social media and the like helps to stay updated.  They are all my cousins whether they know it or not.

No house can hold the Pleshar Family Christmas anymore.  There are too many of us.  They are held in various halls and Fieldhouse’s in the greater Chicagoland area.

There are many more things to say about my cousins.  So many stories.  I haven’t even mentioned the paternal 3, which is a whole other thing and a story for another time.

I started this blog on January 1st, 2016.  It is now January 2nd, 2016.  It’s the day of the Pleshar Family Christmas.  Christmas is over tomorrow.  But not today.

I don’t think Joe and Lorraine would have had any idea what they were about to start.  I hope they know now.

See you soon, cuz!

#9 – Byron3, or Fall’s end

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3 thoughts on “#8 – Cousins, or We are Family”

  1. I am moved beyond words. We are family and proud to be a part; proud of your part.

  2. Nice going. You captured the spirit of the family and the times then and now. How could your blog not be successful? Thanks for sharing.

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