19 February 2008

The Best of Wishes, From Afar

When I was growing up, the closest thing I had to a sister was my cousin, A. She had two sisters of her own, so I counted myself fortunate that she still needed and wanted a "best cuz." When we were very young, we were inseparable. We wore matching bikinis in the summer, explored the wonders of my grandma's attic and basement when no one was looking, and led our rag-tag group of cousins in any number of ridiculous antics. One summer we made a movie- a terrible, wonderful version of Cinderella set during WWII. We, being too large to be properly matched to one of the two boys available to play the prince, played the stepsisters. In the movie, you can see how goofy we were together. In my favorite scene, we do a random dance, and you can see the dust from my grandma's newly seeded lawn flying in the air.

But we grew apart somehow once we got into high school--or was it college?? I really can't remember, and I really can't tell you why. We lived almost 200 miles apart by then, and in many ways were in very different worlds. She wore Abercrombie, and in my jealousy, I pretended I thought it was ridiculous of her. I remember going to her High School Graduations--she invited me, but after that, we were never really close.

When I got engaged, to everyone's great surprise, there was quite a bit of discussion about who the bridesmaids should be. I wanted my younger cousins and friends. My mother wanted me to ask A. Actually, I'm not sure that she really wanted me to; she needed me to to keep up appearances. Because there was that whole growing apart thing that seemed to bother my grandmother terribly. "Just go talk to her. She's just shy, like her mother," I was told. I'm not sure if she was ever prodded to talk to me as well, but somehow I doubt it.

I didn't really want to ask her-not because I didn't like her or because I didn't want her around, but because I didn't know her any more. She, unlike me, had gone off to college. She had a life that I could only imagine, because there were no more letters written in pink and purple pen making their way between Toledo and Akron anymore. I knew that my mom was pushed to ask a cousin to be her maid of honor when she wanted her friend. I hated that she was putting me in the same position, but I buckled and said that I would have her in the wedding party.

I'll never forget the day. It was at our big fat Italian family reunion. My mom had called her brother to make sure that A came. She told him that I had something to ask. I was shaking. Absolutely shaking. J had taken one of the kids down to the bathroom and my mom was pushing, "Do it now. Do it now." So I asked. And she turned me down flat. And I was still shaking. She told me that we weren't close, as though I was unaware of it. She told me that I should only have people I was close to in my wedding. And I was shaking.

From anger. From embarrassment. From hurt. (Because who, really?!, gets turned down when they ask someone--a family member--to be in their wedding.)

And for months and months I was so angry at her.

At least I thought it was her that I was angry at. Looking back later, with a bit more perspective, I realize she gave me the best gift that she could have given me--the wedding party I had always envisioned. I realized that we were both just tangled up in some larger dance between siblings who wanted their parents' approval. My mom said that I won that day-- that I showed myself to be the better person. I'm not sure that she was right. She won. She showed herself to have the better daughter-the one who is more obedient and who does for her family as she should. But I don't think I won.

So many of my happiest childhood memories have A. in them. And now we do not talk. We're cordial to one another now. (After the rejection I wasn't so cordial.) But we do not talk. We do not reminisce and we do not laugh about those old times together. And that is completely and utterly my fault. I was the one who made every decision to distance myself, who let myself be put in an un-winnable situation, who made the decision to act self-righteous after that situation exploded the only way it could have. I made our Cinderella movie into a DVD last Christmas as kind of a peace offering. Perhaps it helped. Perhaps not.

Today I learned that A. is engaged. She posted the story of the proposal on her myspace page--and what a proposal. Reading it, I almost cried with happiness for her, but I also couldn't help but feel a little sad. Because I don't think there's any way to fix the break we've had. All I can hope for is cordial, and maybe cordial someday will turn into friendly. Who knows.

But I wish her only the best. That she finds happiness beyond her dreams with the man she has found to make them real. That she has the wedding she wants--with no drama or squabbles. That she has the marriage she deserves. I wish her and her's what our dear friend wished us on our wedding day- The quiet miracle of a beautiful life together.


Anonymous said...

I wish we could go back and live those early days together, play ridiculous games at grandmas house, and eating bolognie and peanutbetter rollups were some of the best days of my life.

Anonymous said...

Wow L- I think about those times too, and how silly and fun we were. I guess I always thought that you hated me in college. But was never really sure why.

I would like to be closer.. I think that we can be again. I think sometimes that family gets in the way (especially our big, fat italian family!) but let's try this again, k? you always were my favorite cousin. and it would be nice to be able to talk again.

Jennie said...

Oh my God, I am going to cry seeing A's comment. I was going to comment to suggest you send her this post, because it's beautiful, and surely it would make a difference if the Cinderella DVD didn't. I am so happy to see that you already did. And I don't even know you. Is that creepy? And I seriously think you should submit this to a woman's magazine or something--it's publishable. It read like something you would see in O (that's meant as a compliment, in case you feel differently about Oprah than I do).