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Silver Threads: Cousins, cousins and more cousins

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

If you were reading Time magazine in 2011, you may have noticed a story reporting the finding that New Orleans’ and daytime television’s own Ellen DeGeneres and Kate Middleton, whose husband, William, may one day be king of England, are 15th cousins.

Presumably Ellen didn’t know that until a genealogical society made the discovery — but then they’re hardly kissin’ cousins. Not as tight as my cousins and me, who were reunited last weekend in Dallas for a wedding and all the festivities celebrating it.

My cousin Bess and my husband and I were the senior partygoers. She told me when I arrived at a pre-nuptial dinner that she’d thought she would be the oldest person there — until she remembered that we were expected. He turns 85 in June, and she doesn’t reach that milestone before October or maybe November. I’ll be 80 in July.

I could have been cruel and said, “Well, you’re still the oldest woman here — which I figured I was going to be ’til I remembered you were coming!”

We were standouts at the gathering of Texas relatives — and three who now live in New York and Chicago — whose ages range from two years, past a bunch of 7-year-olds and teens, then to folks in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and we three octogenarians.

I, for one, came home exhausted. And I didn’t even do all the partying the younger cousins did. But it was a great weekend and I finished it once again feeling blest to have such a large and loving family.

Once upon a time I was the 11th of 18 first cousins on my father’s side of my family. The eldest was about 20 years my senior, the youngest my own brother, who is 13 years younger than I. I’m now the oldest living cousin of the original 18 (Bess is a dearly loved in-law), and feel entitled to the respect and affection that I get. Not so much respect from Mary, though, who’s two years younger, next in the first-generation cousin count, and still remembers my bossy ways when we were growing up. Some things you just can’t live down, can you?

Anyhow, we’re on to the second, third and even fourth generations of cousins now — guys and dolls who’ve known me only as a kindly role model for cousinly relations. In addition to Christy, the bride, I mingled with her mom, Scherry; sister, Dana; two gals named Tucker; Lexi; Trina; Jan and husband Jerry; Martha and Alice and their brother, Bo, and his wife, Tina; Mollie; Clint; Millie and spouse Brad; Annabelle; Dale and wife Melinda; Toby; Brett; Chelsea and little son Cruz; and our own daughter Jill and her spouse, Cliff.

At a brunch the morning after the wedding, at Mary and her husband Bob’s house, there were even more cousins and cousin-in-laws: Tien, Karen, Anna, Rob, April, Katie and the triplets — a first in our family — Will, Bobby and Charlie! I only wish that Daddy, who would have been their great-great uncle, and the 10 first generationers who are waiting for me in the hereafter could see them. Maybe they can.

I’m looking forward to getting to know my most recently acquired cousin, Sam, Christy’s new husband, better. And hosting his parents, who spend winters on the Mississippi coast at their place in Pass Christian, at our house. More cousins, yay!

P.S. When I finally Googled “kissin’ cousins” on the internet, I found out that it doesn’t exactly mean what I thought. The term refers to cousins whom it’s okay to marry, since unions with first cousins are taboo in many cultures. So our Ellen and the duchess of Cambridge and her kids ARE kissin’ cousins.

I also learned that July 24 is Cousins’ Day. I hope you’ll celebrate it; I already have.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]