Early in the morning, we three sisters (and one husband) each set off from our homes in Illinois, Massachusetts and Vermont. It’s cousin-swapping day, the day we will officially return each cousin to their own families.
Oddly enough, if you start in Illinois, or Vermont, or Massachusetts, the official midway point turns out to be the same. Erie, Pennsylvania is our destination. The official time is about eight hours drive (one-way), but we know that there will be various stops.
The “meet and greet” is quick, more concerned with safety than normal family gatherings would be. We stand in the 95 degree heat of mid-afternoon sun, swapping luggage and well wishes. Hugs are replaced with waves by the adults. We make exceptions with the kids. Aunts (and an uncle!) hug goodbye to one, and hello to another.
Throughout the (very, very long) day of driving, as our conversation keeps returning to the changes the pandemic has brought—and continues to bring—to our lives, the one silver lining that keeps coming up is the cousin swap.
The Massachusetts-based only child had a constant playmate for nearly three weeks. She honed her negotiation and compromise skills and was never bored alone. The two of them gave their mom/aunt a bit of peace (which she used to completely clean out a kitchen and a pantry).
Our land-locked, farm-raised Illinois niece spent hours in the ocean. She learned that fish do swim in the shallow waters where she plays. She marveled at the many bridges in southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She stood at her city aunt’s kitchen sink, commenting how much fun it was to see “so many things going on in the street”, instead of “just grass and trees and cows”.
Our Vermont daughter came home talking about those same cows, especially “Kit Kat”, a personal favorite from the milking parlor. Her time was filled with two families of relatives, in two states. She loved milking, feeding the baby calves, playing with the puppy—and spending more time with these special people. Silver linings. All the way around.