Around 2 pm this afternoon, I received an unexpected phone call. It was my cousin Justin, son of my mother's brother, whom I hadn't heard from in years. He's about ten years younger than I am-- we were friends growing up, but he left home the minute he turned eighteen to get away from his father. He joined the Marines, at which point his father refused to speak to him or give updates to the family, so we'd pretty much lost contact. He's Stateside now, working for a lumber contractor, and apparently got back in contact with some other cousins by pure chance. He was passing through Cincinatti and gave me a call. As astonishing and surreal as it seemed, we ended up at Olive Garden with my brother and his girls. It was so strange, because his face seemed so familiar and yet so changed. He'd thinner now, and taller than I remember him-- that sort of whipcord strength a lot of people underestimate. The eyes though-- the blue eyes I'd envied him-- and his red hair, they were same. I spotted him by the heavy dusting of freckles on his nose, and the sheepish way he tried to blend his six foot frame into the crowd. He seems to be doing well; good job, steady girlfriend, and he's even talking to a couple of his brothers again. He's living in Wisconsin, of all places, and was coming through Cinci on the way back from visiting his girlfriend's family.
He asked if Sam and I had gone home for Christmas, and we said no. (Although my grandmother and assorted aunts managed to high-jack what was supposed to be a Merry Christmas call from my mother and turn it into a long, unwilling guilt-trip... a story for another time.) He nodded thoughtfully, and said he'd never seen the point of spending time with people who were family in name and not feeling. He said he was sorry if calling us brought up bad memories, but that Sam and I had always been good memories from his childhood. I got a little choked up, to be perfectly honest.
We parted with an exchange of hugs, kisses, contact information, and promises to keep in touch.
Now, I'm listening to Sam sing along with Slipknot while he gets dressed for his evening out. In a few mintures, the girls and I will put in Night at the Museum II and begin the always daunting task of taking down the tree.
So, here's my wish for 2010, the Year of the Tiger. Doesn't it look strange to write that? 2010. Looks more like a slot-machine number, or military time. *laughs at herself* Anway.
Let's be bold, like the Tiger. Let's grab this year by the tail, let's jump it before it knows we're here. I don't have too many real regrets for 2009 (though there are some things I'd like to forget), but I think it was a tough time for everybody. I hope this year brings you new opportunities, new experiences, and new luck. But, because I looked into strange-familiar eyes this evening, I also wish something else. Let the good things from the past return; those things we don't leave in the dust, because they are full of feeling.
Hugs and kisses,