As children, siblings often do not get along well. As children, friends are BFFs one day and fighting and having spats the next day. But cousins of the same age are your buddies, reliable playmates to while away the time with while the grownups engage in endless recountings of those tiresome family stories. Or at least that was my experience with my cousins when I was a child.
Of course, on my mother’s side of the family, I was down there in the “baby ghetto” of the Moore cousins, which consisted of the three youngest. And the other two were boys. But that didn’t matter. I could play with dolls or I could be a tomboy, so having Fred and Tim to play with was fun in any event. Fred was about nine months older than I was, and Tim was almost exactly a year younger. Perfect.
The problem was, Fred was in Texas and Tim and I were in California, so we never got a chance for all three of us to play together. Two of the most popular “Moore family stories,” however, involved accounts of Tim and me playing with Fred on different occasions. One dated to baby-toddler days, when Mom and Dad and I lived in Texas for a few months. My older brother Don and Fred’s older sister Tootsie were the same age (Don, who was eight years older than I, was lucky – there was a whole passel of Moore cousins near his age). As the story went, Don and Tootsie decided they would “entertain” us babies (Fred and me) by putting us in a wagon and then pulling the wagon behind them as fast as they could run. This was in the 1950s, so no seat belts or helmets for us. And we were apparently quite a sight, bouncing around in the wagon with our tongues hanging out in baby-joy.
The other story dealt with Fred’s efforts to teach Tim to “talk Texan.” All of our parents retained their Texas accents to some degree or another, even those who had lived in California for a good 20 years. But the California cousins had no trace of the accent, unlike our handful of Texas cousins.
Fred knew that Tim would love to be cool like a Texan, so he took it upon himself to teach him the lingo. But it did not come naturally; when Tim slipped into our sissy Southern Californian accent, Fred had to correct him: “No, no, it’s not ‘I think.’ Repeat after me: ‘Ah thank.’”
One of the “adventures” I remember with Tim also involved our next oldest cousin, Tim’s sister Sheri, one of the few older cousins who would ever deign to notice us. Once our two families went out to Uncle Pete’s and Aunt Johnny’s house in the mountains, and the three of us got to sleep on a mattress on the floor in the upstairs room. The problem was that we simply found one another to be too funny; we cracked ourselves up. We could not settle down and go to sleep. Several times Uncle Pete had to come up and warn us to be quiet, and the last time the threat must have been a doozie, because we actually did.
Because there were 11 kids in my mother’s family, there was a good stretch of ages from the oldest to youngest siblings, and Moore cousins started getting born a good 20 years before I was born. So many of the older cousins were adults with children of their own by the time the “baby cousins” came along, and the older cousins’ children were the playmates of a few of the younger cousins. Twelve years after Tim was born, the final Moore cousin was born when Mom’s long-time bachelor brother finally got married and his wife gave birth to a daughter. Now adolescents, Fred, Tim, and I – at long last – were no longer the “babies.”