Left: Me and my cousin John, age <1 year.
Right: Me and my cousin John, ~50 years later, fighting the battle of the schnozzes (I win).
Today I wish a happy birthday to my cousin John … Huck Finn to my Tom Sawyer, Don Quixote to my Sancho Panza, Batman to my Robin.
Some have asked why Miss Felicity Prim and her sister, Celia, refer to each other as “Sister” rather than using their given names. Is this a reference to the way Mma Ramotswe and her friends often refer to each other as “sister”? As much as I adore Alexander McCall Smith’s books, Mma Ramotswe was not the inspiration behind the Prim Sisters’ term of endearment. Rather, years ago, for reasons I cannot remember in the least, my cousin John and I began calling each other “Cousin.” He doesn’t say, “Hello, Steve” — he says, “Hello, Cousin.” I don’t say “How’s it going, John?” — I say, “How’s it going, Cousin?” Somehow I was reminded of this when Celia Prim finds her way onto the pages of The Outsmarting of Criminals … and now you know the inside story.
Today I wish John (no longer John John, as I knew him for the first 20+ years of our lives — that name is now reserved for his son, John III) the happiest of landmark birthdays. Half a century later, I’m feeling nostalgic for some of the stunts we pulled – like spiking a pot of coffee with saccharine tablets; and watering my grandfather’s tomato garden with gasoline; and falling into the brook next to my house on Thanksgiving day and sitting huddled in our underwear in the basement while waiting for our clothes to come out of the dryer and hoping no adults came downstairs (which, of course, they did). We lived two towns apart and thought nothing of riding our bikes to each other’s houses, down main streets and through county parks — an act which, today, would land our parents in jail and us in foster homes. It is John who had some of the experiences I wish I could have had, like being at a party in which a cocky dude tossed a pie into the face of the host (I thought that “getting pied” happened only on TV).
And I realize that in our half century of cohabiting the Earth, we’ve never had a fight or had ill words or bad feelings–just laughter, good times, and a bit of mischief (though, to hear our Italian parents talk about it, you’d think we were the devil’s spawn). So, Cousin, Happy Birthday from One Cousin to Another.