A Visit with Kissin’ Cousins

By Georgie Bright Kunkel

The title brings up memories of the first time I ever heard of anyone using the term “Kissin’ Cousins.” I knew growing up that one was not supposed to marry close family members but I wasn’t really sure why. In prehistoric times I expect that people weren’t aware of the taboo of having sex with a cousin. It wasn’t until scientific research brought out that so-called in-breeding was a no-no that humans paired up with people outside their extended family. Even early tribal people picked partners from another tribe. There were various customs involving this practice. Most of the time the young bride would move to the village of her new husband where she was ruled by her husband’s mother. But that’s another story.

Does anyone remember the Elvis Presley movie made in 1964 called “Kissin’ Cousins?” Wow, did he strut around in his cowboy shirt with fancy studs all over it and a silver buckle on his belt. You would never have thought that he was a church going fellow while watching his hip gyrations to every ballad that he sang. When I saw him I always wondered about that. You can tell how sheltered I was in those days.

In my childhood my cousins lived nearby and on holidays they would visit us.

When the adults were busy talking together and ignoring us we could run about doing cartwheels and having lots of fun. That was a time when no one noticed when we took too much candy from the lovely gold toned candy dish on the coffee table or forgot to go to the bathroom and wet our pants because we were laughing so hard. Freedom reigned.

Harking back to the first years of my marriage I now realize that living in the city far away from extended family made family life very isolated. In my small town where I grew up, my mother was available to give advice to my two sisters who remained in this small town. After my mother retired my sisters could leave their preschool children with her when they needed someone to watch them. In my early years of my life I was surrounded by an extended family. After moving to the city after I was married, however, I had no mother on hand for me to leave my children with or to come and help me. That was a time of exchanging babysitting with neighbors who were in the same predicament here in West Seattle.

I expect that if I dug into my boxes of diaries I would find a record of many visits with my cousins back in the small town where I grew up. Often I wonder where many of my California cousins are. I have no address for them and so those cousins may forever be lost to me. Being the youngest of a very large family I have no lack of cousins in my life, however. You heard about my family reunion that I hosted in my back yard last summer. A reunion of my Seattle family is taking place soon. One of my grandchildren is hosting. Now my grandchildren and great grandchildren play with their cousins like I used to do. Wish you could have seen my great grandson playing with his baby cousin at our recent family gathering. And my four year old great grandchild was jumping about in her party dress with the velvet ribbon around her waist, thrilled to play with her cousins that she rarely gets to see.

No matter how many problems there are on earth, concentrating on the closeness of family ties will never go out of style. We don’t stay on this earth forever so let’s cherish family ties while we are here.

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