by Bella Rum

My niece and my cousin came for lunch on Saturday. What an interesting day. They are both 52, which is about fourteen years younger than I am. I was in my niece’s life when she was growing up. I actually lived with my sister for a year when I first left home, and we continued to live in the same town while my nieces and nephews were growing up.

The opposite was true for my cousin who lived next door to me when I was still at home. She was very young when I moved away. I kept in touch with my aunt – her mother – but the truth is, she was practically a stranger when she arrived for lunch on Saturday, but family bonds bridged the distance instantly. Within minutes, we were in deep conversation about our relatives. We knew all the same relatives, but she got to know them during an entirely different period of their lives. I had moved away by then. It was fun to see them through her eyes.Ruth-Melzer-DeMaria

I particularly enjoyed hearing her talk about her relationship with one of our aunts, a Life Master Bridge player. It turned out that we both loved her when we were kids, and though many years apart, she taught both of us to play cards. I don’t know how to explain it. We barely know each other, but we intimately know all the same people. I loved being with her and hearing her perspective on our family members: the kind, the not-so-kind, the interesting, the crazy. She only lives twenty minutes away. Is that great or what?

I am still “ancestering” with great success. We dragged the old photos out so we could add photos to the profiles of as many relatives as possible. Boy is that a trip down memory lane, and to think this all began with a closet-search for old letters a few weeks ago. One thing does lead to another. Next week, I plan to go home and team up with Aunt Ruby – the mother to the same cousin – for a cemetery trek. She is the only remaining relative from that generation. She knows where all the dead bodies are buried, both literally and figuratively. She’s the one who can put flesh on the bones of my family story.

Dead people seem to be my most recent passion.