December 30, 2009
Her California Cousin
Sweet P and her cousin have known each other since birth. They are not first cousins (and I could tell you how exactly they are related, but it'll hurt your brain), but they were born four months apart.
As toddlers they lived less than a mile apart and could pronounce only the vowels in each other's names-- no one else knew of whom they spoke-- and spent most of their time taking toys from each other and crying. They bathed together, ran through sprinklers together, and gave each other hair cuts. Once, in a fit of frustration, Sweet P pulled out her cousin's hair. It was a low point. Still, they belonged to the same playgroups and were guaranteed to see each other at least twice a week.
As preschoolers, Sweet P and her cousin learned to have animated conversations (which only they could comprehend), always argued over who got the pink cup, played dress up and Play-Doh, and created intense little imaginary worlds. It was a challenge to draw them back into reality, as if they'd entered their own bubble where they were the only existing people. They promised to marry each other, and when Sweet P's cousin's little brother came along, Sweet P had a full-blown throw-herself-on-the-floor-kicking tantrum because she wanted one, too.
In kindergarten Sweet P and I lived with her cousin and family, so the girls started school together, and the school folks thought they were twins. The cousins didn't want to marry each other anymore but wanted to take turns marrying one little golden-haired boy who may or may not have known he was of interest.
And it went on like that (although we did eventually find our own apartment a few blocks away). The girls played soccer together, read the same books, wore matching Halloween costumes, went on vacation and camping trips, had sleep-overs with the same group of friends (mostly from their old playgroup), and birthday party extravaganzas. It was a good ten years. Then, poof: we moved to The Woods. California Cousin drove across country with Sweet P and her dad by way of goodbye.
California Cousin is visiting us in The Woods this week. She hasn't been out since that cross-country summer trip. Some things have changed, as they must. There's no more Play-Doh or dress up, as far as I can tell. While Sweet P is fascinated with fashion, her cousin refuses to wear buttons. They've both given up soccer. They're reading different books and have made new friends.
I'm happy to see that they still don't need much besides imagination to entertain them. The last two days the temperature has leaned toward, or leaped below, zero, and the girls have not complained. They spent most of yesterday reading aloud to each other animatedly from the most recent installment of an old, favorite series (the name of which I'm not sure I'm allowed to divulge). Today they've finished the book and are designing homes and characters for their own stories and giggling over their drawing mistakes.
Suddenly the girls, who are seated next to me at the table, have begun to argue heatedly over the placement of a house window. Sweet P tries to draw the window on California Cousin's paper as Cousin pulls the paper away, "If you put the window there, it'll be looking into your house," she says. Sweet P disagrees.
"Are your houses supposed to be attached to each other?" I ask.
But they don't answer me; they don't even hear me. They're inside their bubble again, hearing nothing but their own laughter.