They get more interesting as they age. Maybe it’s because now that we’re all adults, we have more to talk about with each other. Maybe it’s just because we’re ready to talk.
Growing up, my paternal cousins and I were never close. They grew up playing with gongfu fighting, Nintendo and Sega games, none of which interested me. I always brought a book to family gatherings and buried my nose in reading while they sometimes fought around me and over me. I was the renowned bookworm. As they got a bit older we had more fun together playing bridge, chess or telling stories and jokes to one another. But we were just playmates. Nothing more.
When I was 13 years old, I made an effort to reach out to one of my cousins who was 2 months older than me. I could tell she was hurting badly from the way her father treated her. She had become increasingly withdrawn and quiet. I remember once she told me that during recess in her school, she would look for ants and follow them as they crawled along the walls. My heart ached for her. But we could never really talk as we only met during family gatherings. Things seemed to get better for her when she found friends in her wu shu and later soccer circles. And then, it was her younger sister’s turn to become reticent and hostile to everyone.
On two occasions now (once during our grandfather’s funeral, and again at our grandmother’s recent birthday) this younger cousin and I spoke to each other about our fathers and their family members. Though not too much was said, I could sense deeply the pain that permeated her family. It was uncanny how similar some of our experiences were.
Once again, our conversation was cut off when the family gathering ended. This time around though, we said we should meet again, without our parents. It would be the first time we ever did that in our lives.