I went up to Portland a couple of weeks ago (my traveling shoes have been getting some wear lately) to visit an aunt, some cousins, an old friend, and a beautiful city.
I have a pretty big family. Eleven first cousins. (That's just first cousins, mind you. Not the second cousins, or the first-cousins-once-removed, or what-have-you.) I'm amongst the youngest of my generation. My summer memories from childhood are punctuated with family reunions in places like Tahoe and Black Butte. Swimming and charades and my elder cousins swinging me around silly.
Families grow though. The kids have kids now. We don't get together like we used to anymore. There's too many of us, scattered across continents. Lives get complicated. When my life threw me the opportunity to head up to Oregon, I took it.
My cousin's home is full of photos, and artwork from her kids. The whole place makes me smile. Her husband and mine compare cooking philosophies while they roll out sushi for dinner. The family dog pads after my six-year-old as the most-likely person to drop his snack, while he giggles and follows his older cousins around. My aunt comes over with armloads of pictures from long ago, when I was the six-year-old. And longer still: my aunts as teenagers, photos my dad sent home to his sisters from Vietnam.
I'm talking with my cousin in her kitchen. There are certain things she says or the way she turns a smile that's just so her. I see it my cousins and my aunts and it feels like home. I wonder if they see it in me too. Do I have some mannerism they notice in me that's been there since I was in diapers?
The kids are romping in the next room, with no lack of noise. They fell into together quickly even though there's an age spread, mine being the youngest. Never-ending circles.
From the doorway, my cousin and I watch our kids. "Is it because they're cousins?" she says. "Not any group of kids instantly gets along like this."
What is that? Is it a subconscious acknowledgment of shared genes? An easy falling-in with kids whose parents' parents were raised together and handed down similar philosophies? Yes. And no. Keep your ethological altruism. I'm not saying its wrong; just that it's not all right. This is just family.