My eldest cousin got married in the early summer when I turned eleven. In December prior to that, I visited my grandmother’s house with my family and happened to meet my cousin’s then fiancé for the first time.
One of the things I always looked forward to whenever staying at my grandmother’s place was to play with my eldest cousin. Since when I was a toddler, despite her busy work schedule as a schoolteacher, my cousin always took time to play with me at home or take me out to some special places during my stay.
But that winter, to my disappointment, she was out most of the time. When I asked adults about her, they told me that she was busy but would come home soon.
One evening, I walked into the dining room and found a table full of gorgeous dishes. It wasn’t uncommon for a feast to take place at my grandmother’s house to welcome guests. There was a bowl of huge strawberries, and as usual, I casually reached my hand to taste one, when my mother came running to stop me.
“Don’t!” She said rather urgently. “That’s not for you!”
Surprised by the serious tone of her voice, I quickly removed my hand. I asked her and others in the room whom the feast was for, but nobody gave me a clear answer.
A few minutes later, they brought the dishes to the guest room. As I waited in the dining room wondering who was having this very special feast, I was called to the guest room with my mother.
To my surprise, there in the guest room was my cousin sitting next to a stranger.
“This is my younger sister and her daughter,” my uncle’s voice rang next to us.
After greeting the stranger, I sat across from my cousin. She looked bubbly in a way that I had never seen her before. She started talking about my family’s annual winter visit to their house, and on our return trip, how I was always crammed in the backseat with all kinds of fresh vegetables and other items given to us by my grandmother and my uncle.
“The car is sinking due to the weight of vegetables and rice bags,” she said laughing hard. “And this poor little cousin of mine is sitting in the backseat, almost drowned in the sea of those souvenirs!”
My cousin laughed so much that her fiancé looked at her perplexed, possibly trying to figure out what about the story it was that made her laugh to tears.
I also sat there speechless. I had never known that my cousin was paying attention to the way I was sinking among the vegetable bags and other gifts from my grandmother as we waved a goodbye to them after our winter visit each year. Moreover, I had never seen my cousin laugh so much that I started worrying that at this rate she might go out of her mind soon.
I don’t recall a single thing that I said during that brief meeting. All I remember is the feast I almost helped myself to, my cousin’s laughter, and the shock I saw on her fiancé’s face.