Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Ties that Bind

I come from a very loose-knit family. We aren't what I'd call dysfunctional--we just have our own things to do. My parents and my sister live within a mile of me, and while I see them periodically, we aren't compelled to speak daily. It's not that I don't love them, because I do--it's just because we're all really busy. My brother lives the furthest--all the way over in the Start school district, and I see him even less. But we all get along and act like family when we do get together.

I also do not have an extensive extended family. My dad was an only child, and he only had a couple of cousins himself. We are fairly close with his one cousin and her family since they lived by us when I was a kid. On my mom's side, I have 7 first cousins. Two of them were adopted, and my uncle (mom's eldest brother) died when they were very young, so we've kind of lost track of them. The rest of us were spread out all over the country--we've been in Michigan since the mid-60's, my Uncle Bill's family was in the Chicago area, and Uncle Robert and crew were in Connecticut. We just didn't grow up around family, although we did see the Chicago contingent a couple of times a year.

Just to add to some perspective, my mom likes to tell the story of a time an acquaintance drove her home from high school. When she pointed out her house, the acquaintance remarked that she couldn't live there because that was Bob Rogers' house and he was an only child. Apparently, he'd been telling people that although he had 4 siblings (one deceased already), 2 of whom had overlapping time with him in high school. I'm also thinking that the relationship should have been a bit less of a mystery to the acquaintance since my mom was still Joan Rogers at the time.

Despite this, there are still ties that bind. We didn't venture very far when kids were named for my generation. The first 3 grandkids for Porter and Emma Rogers were Robert, Robert, and Robin. It isn't so much that my mom and her siblings lacked in originality--it's more that my dad and uncle are both Roberts and wanted juniors. Robin's name was more likely due to when she was born. Made the few times we were all together interesting--we had Bob, Robert, Bobby Reese, Bobby Rogers---pretty bad when the kids had to start going by their last names when they weren't in trouble. I also have 2 cousins named Kim, but they are on opposite branches of my family tree. I am named for my mom's sister, who died when they were children. Once it got beyond 1961, names began to differ (Beth, Nancy, Debbie, Laura, Mark).

Birthdays were also interesting. Four of the 10 Rogers' grandkids were born in April (and one in the last couple of days of March). My brother Robert was born on my Uncle Robert's birthday (which is a week before my mom's). My cousin Laura's birthday is the day before my sister's, and there were 2 in January. Everything all compacted.

Ages of said grandkids are spread out though, starting in 1957 and ending in 1969. Well, except for a nine month period in 1960 & 61. My cousin Robin and I were both born in April (she's older by 27 days). My cousin Kim came along 8 months later--so there were three of us in the class of '78. Robin and I were best friends until I moved to Detroit at 5. We were together frequently as toddlers. We also spent the summer of 1970 together after my grandparents died. It was back in the age of stationery and stamps, so we exchanged letters frequently. I think the only 2 times the three of us were together was one Christmas when the CT gang came to Chicago (we were all too young to remember that one!), and when my grandmother died. My family drove out to CT at the end of the summer of '70, and Kim and I became pen pals after that as well. I vividly recall one missive that contained a glowing review of her trip with her mom to see Engelbert Humperdinck. We've seen each other on a few of my other trips east--I'm still waiting for her to journey to the midwest.

At any rate, none of us grew up together and yet, if we were ever in a room together, I'm thinking people would think differently. We've all hooked up on Facebook. I have learned via this medium that Kim has the same warped sense of humor that I have. Aside from my brother (and apparently my mom), she and I probably have more of a family resemblance than I have with the rest of my relations, including my sister. It's not that we look alike--we don't particularly--Kim is gorgeous. It's just that you can tell we're family. My sister looks quite a bit like my other cousin Kim (dad's side). Robin doesn't look like either of us, but if you listen to conversation, it is again apparent that we're related. I'm sure having parents who grew up in the same house is the root cause. I'm grateful to Facebook for allowing us to become friends as adults.

No comments: