On the day of my own birth, my cousin Doreen was already older than me by days. That was ok. She was always tinier than me and quieter and I would have followed her anywhere. Indeed I did! They had a two story barn with a great bay area where the tractors went. From up above she would swing out over that open bay on a rope, turning upside down, grabbing with her feet and letting go with her hands….like a 1968 version of farmalnd cirque du soleil. I could barely grasp the rope when it swung my way. Maybe, once….twice?…did I get a swing in. I followed her into the horse pen, out in the garden, gathered up mud, played with barbies. I recall a moment of dark girly cuddles as we quietly spent the night together, dreaming of becoming “vets” together. Now, our childhood of togetherness took place during the Vietnam War and there was always a phrase about, saying “Don’t forget hire a vet”. We would giggle at the double meaning which obviously applied to us. Doreen wanted to be a large animal vet, working with horses, cows, sheep…or was her love doggies and kittens? I didn’t want to be a vet, not really. I just wanted to imagine a future with her.
When we were in the 4th grade, religion and circumstance pulled apart our oneness, like pulling taffy until one piece stretches all it can before it is two pieces. I was bereft of a sense of my dearest friend, closest cousin, purpose in life. Yes, we got together when the family gathered, every now and then, but we no longer lived and dreamed together with frequency.
I think we would have slowly drifted into separate worlds had nothing else changed. But I think it would have been a sweet drift of developing lives, a comfortable drift between childhood and adolescence. We have not been a part of one anothers lives in our adulthood. We cannot track the names of each others children, know what fills each others days, or when one is swinging out over a bay of great life happenings.
Doreen is in the final days of cancer as I write this. Her family is praying for a complete healing, and so am I. I’m pretty sure that we define that in different ways, but it doesn’t matter. This past week has been one of being age 5,6, & 9 again. I have been in the flowers again, I’ve had my feet covered in mud needing to wash them off in the special place so we wouldn’t bring it into the house, and I remember her petite, quiet, mischievousness with the warmest and deepest of loves.
Swing Well my dearest cousin,
out over great expanses of time and space
family and a life well lived.
May your feet be covered in earth
that is sacred and moist and needs no washing off,
soil, mud, clay
fertile and flower-ful.
With a love that has no end,
(shared with a tender heart. use only with permission)
Doreen Snavely Nichols 10.9.1963 – 2.3.2013