Sunday, February 22, 2009

All in the Family

While the rest of the blogosphere is all atwitter with musings on Oscar nominations, dress choices and speculations about Ryan Seacrest's sexual orientation, I've decided to write about something completely different this evening. Honestly, I have only seen 2-3 of the nominated films and the rest are waiting release on my Netflix queue (or a free Saturday night). Also, I have a wonderful friend living in Tempe, Ariz. who dishes with me about the terrible outfits across the time zones. Coincidentally, Sean Penn is the shit in Milk and Robert Downey Jr. is the most underrated actor in the universe.

Earlier this week, I got an email via my professional Facebook account from someone whose name sounded vaguely familiar. The man, in his early 60s, introduced himself as my father's cousin Barry, the son of my great aunt, who I have no recollection of ever meeting. After my zayde (dad's father) died in 1989, our family stopped visiting Massachusetts on our regular summer vacations to the East Coast. Aside from seeing my bubbie (dad's mother), aunt and uncle at our bar/bat mitzvahs and at Bubbie's funeral, I've had virtually no contact with that side of my family, lo these 20 years.

Certainly, I've heard nothing of Cousin Barry, his brother and their daughters who were about the same age as me. It always felt a little unfortunate, but luckily I have a great family on my mom's side and I was always content with that. Besides, people on my dad's side had weird nicknames and were diehard Boston sports fans - and I'm a Giants (and Cardinals) fan.

Now, this whole new family dimension has opened and it's left me wondering why. Why now? Why me? And it's not just Cousin Barry. During the past few months and years, I have connected with myriad cousins, from David, the Oregon rancher to Pesha Rachel, the Orthodox mother of seven. Some of them like Cathi in Toronto, I knew about but had no way of contacting and others, like Hadassah Blima, I never knew existed. For someone who grew up with a small family and no Jewish first cousins, it came as quite a shock to find out I'm related to half of Lakewood, New Jersey (a well-known Orthodox Jewish enclave).

Still, why connect through me? Why not my brother or sister? They are outgoing and personable and have the same uncommon last name. The best explanation I've rationalized is that as the oldest child in my family, I'm predisposed to be the connector and filial beacon. And various researchers can back me up. Eldest children are known to be more conscientious and socially dominant than their younger siblings, so maybe it's in the genes. My Cousin Philip (aka our U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia), similarly keeps track of all the family relations and can explain what a second cousin, once removed, actually means. He's also an oldest child.

Whatever the reason, I'm thankful for all the new and rediscovered family connections that have come my way since I moved to the Northeast. Even if it means embracing a few Patriots fans.

7 comments:

Josh said...

I have to disagree somewhat -- Mickey Rourke was more the shit in The Wrestler and I think Josh Brolin is more underrated than Robert Downey, Jr.

Anonymous said...

At least you didn't get facebook friended by someone named Jesus from the Netherlands with your last name.

~Magyar McGuyver

Shtetl Fabulous said...

Oh but I did! I rejected his request.

Anonymous said...

I've yet to make up my mind about him...

~Magyar McGuyver

Maya said...

Then there's that question about whether it's weird to friend, say, your second cousin's husband... and then Facebook tells me that I may know HIS mother-in-law, so do I friend her?

Seriously, though, I've definitely been there. I actually have a whole family of cousins in CA that I met for the first time in Israel this past year... thanks to the magic of Facebook.

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SaraK said...

My aunt (Dad's older sister) is totally the glue that holds that side of our family together and I feel a similar duty, as the oldest in my family. I am a total birth order believer, so I agree with you!

muse said...

Wow! That's great. Through my husband's cousins' cousins, we got into the geni site for connecting. Then I added my relatives, both sides. It's mind boggling.
On my mother's side, a his/hers/ours, meaning that some of my first cousins aren't blood relations to each other. I'm from an "our." Well, back to the sentence...
An aunt's second granddaughter inherited the "family list," and now besides the phone/address list every few years, we have a monthly what's doing, birthday, anniversary and yartzeit announcement every month via email and snail for my parents.