My cousins, who were mostly older than me since my mother was the baby of her family, were one of the biggest influences of my life. They influenced how I talked, what I wanted to wear, how I wore my hair and the music I would listen to. They were also the most prominent impression that I had of my parent’s native land, Cuba.
My cousins Caridad and Barbara Prince were the ones that told me what it was like in Cuba. They told me how they thought that communism was going to be so good. They recounted for me how they would celebrate privately that no one would be poor and no one would be rich. Everyone would be the same. Caridad would tell me how she and Barbara would walk down the street talking pure gibberish in order to fool others into believing that they spoke English. Barbara told how they lived on a small island and that they had to row a boat to the mainland in order to go to school. I would daydream of how cool it would be, on the water every single morning, with an older sister to do all the rowing to school.
My cousins Loli and Barbara Gusman were really cool ones. They wore the really cool clothes and were up on the latest Motown sound. I guess they were hippies. I know that I started saying “man” after everything like my cousin Loli. She definitely got the blame for that. I still say man. Barbara turned me on to Cheech and Chong. I could listen to that record over and over again. I would laugh every time.
Man, the sister Mary Elephant was the best routine.
Life was great then. My family was close. We spent so much time together. If I wasn’t crashing with them, they were crashing at my house. Even when they grew up and had their own children, they still came around and continued their influence. That alone always made me feel so prized. They made me feel like I was an important element of their lives.
Of course time changes everything. People get married, move away, and somehow we fall out of touch. That didn’t matter though. I can call Barbara Prince and say hey I’m in South Florida, meet me for lunch, she is there.
I can call Caridad and we can talk for hours, laughing as though no time has passed at all.
Loli is the same. I can phone her up and she is always there to listen, even if it has been years.
Barbara Gusman is my closest cousin. She and I have remained close most of the time. Even when there has been long distances between us we don’t lose touch. She has been there as I go through life’s changes and disappointments. She never turned her back on me, no matter how crazy I got or acted.
I am thankful for my cousins. All of them, but the ones I name today were the most influential for me. They knew how rough things were at home for us. They helped us escape the madness, even if for short periods of time. They were masters at making that time seem like much more than just that. I know they didn’t have to, they wanted to.
I love you “Cuzzies” and thank you for loving me.