Today is Joyce's birthday anniversary.
Joyce is my cousin. She is five weeks older than I am, and I have never let her forget it.
We grew up together in Adrian, Mich. We were inseparable at Lincoln Elementary School and in Adrian junior and senior high schools. Because her last name was Perkins and mine, Powell, we were near each other in classes that seated students alphabetically.
We walked to grade school together, often in the cold winter months, stopping to pull off a long icicle to chomp on just for fun, and to make snowballs if the snow was wet enough. Now we laugh as we remember chapped legs from wearing wool snowsuits without linings. The long brown cotton stockings didn't go all the way to the top, leaving enough upper legs to get raw and red.
At least once a year I remind Joyce that she is the person who told me there wasn't a Santa Claus and for as many years as I have told her, she has denied it as many.
As I was addressing her birthday card, the bond that exists between cousins, despite differences, kept flashing through my mind. It would be nice to celebrate together more than with a card and a telephone call. We do not e-mail, thankfully. We both know how, but telephone calls are more personal and warmer.
Joyce grew up in a family with both parents and a brother and sister. I grew up with a single divorced mother, and visited my father and his new family twice a month.
Buzzing cousins that we were, we had different interests in school. Joyce was extremely gifted in music. She played the piano, and any other instrument she picked up, masterfully. I tried to copy her but failed miserably trying to learn both the bassoon and guitar. My interest was writing.
Still, we were always pals. I applauded loudly at her piano recitals and she commented kindly on my school newspaper articles.
Our personality and interest differences continued into adulthood. Joyce is the mother of two sons, has four grandchildren, and is a great-grandmother. I never had children, but I have enjoyed her family and am always included in their celebrations and holidays.
Decision-making is one big difference.
While I am a procrastinator who hems and haws, she does not dilly-dally but gets right to the point, just as she did 30 years ago when she moved to Florida and never looked back or came back to Michigan except for brief visits. I envy that quality even more than her music ability.
In contrast, travel may be my forte, but pulling up stakes and moving far from home has been frightening to me all my life, and still is. To that, Joyce says when she encourages me to move into the house that is available next door to hers in Orange City, we surely aren't at all alike when it comes to making decisions. I honestly think it makes her about half-disgusted.
Despite the differences, we are alike in so many ways - in spirit, in work ethic, in laughing at the shared old times, and in cherishing family memories. For the record, we both are thankful to be celebrating another birthday in the summer of 2005.
The bond between cousins is a family gift that I hope others share with the zeal that we do.
Joyce's birthday is a very special day for me. I take time picking out a cousin card with a meaningful verse, which isn't easily found, and I mail it early to be sure it will get there on time. This year I even bought a Happy Birthday stamp, and this morning I will call and say, "Well, buzzin' cuzzin', you made it another year. I'm right behind you."