I have a very large family. Actually, I have several very large families, but the family I'm talking about right now is the one on my mom's side. Lots of aunts and nephews and grandparents and Sri Lankan wives and third-cousins-half-removed and one extremely cool 4-year-old uncle. Most of the family lives in southern California--and the ones who don't live here, well, they travel here as often as they can--which is fairly often--and any excuse we can make to get together, well, we make the excuse and we get together. You say it’s your birthday…Awesome—who’s buying the cake? You’ve got another anniversary coming up…We’ll be there for dinner. And while we’re eating, why don’t we plan Christmas at Grandpa and Granny J’s? And then we can talk about having Hanukkah at Aunt Lee’s. And then we can arrange a get-together the following Sunday for brunch in Mom and Joe’s backyard. Why? Because it’s Sunday, and we wanna see each other, and why not?
Honestly, if you offer us up a holiday, we’ll embrace it and then celebrate the hell out of it. I'm surprised we didn't get together for MLK day yesterday. Because getting together? That's what we do.
We also eat too much and we talk over each other and we laugh and we get into each other's business and I always make my mom cry at least once and then everyone will try to figure out what I said this time that made Sherry cry and then my mom and I will start laughing uncontrollably and then people will stop trying to figure out why Sherry's crying and they'll all decide, again, that we're a little bit crazy, and then we'll eat some more, and we'll laugh some more, and we'll yell over each other some more, and we'll end up talking about whether or not we should all go see a movie until we realize it's too late to see a movie because we've been talking about it for so long that now it's time for everyone to go home. Then we'll spend 45 minutes saying good-bye to each other, and some of us will say things like: "Don't you love a long Jewish good-bye?," while others of us will say things like: "I hate Jewish good-byes, get in the car, I wanna go home."
And of course we have our problems, just like every family, but the one thing I can be sure of every time the family gets together is that there will be as much love as there is food.
But my one complaint about these big frenetic family get-togethers is that sometimes I don’t get enough one-on-one with people because we’re so busy being big and loud and frenetic. Which is why the conversation I had with my cousin Nikki over the weekend merits New Thing status. Now, of course I’ve had thousands of conversations with my cousin Nikki, but I've never had a conversation with my cousin Nikki via text message, until this weekend, and I’ve never had a conversation with her quite like this specific conversation.
I know that saying "I've never had a conversation with my cousin Nikki via text message, until this weekend" maybe sounds like I'm cheating with my New Things. Like, maybe if you're a cynic, then right now you might be thinking something along the lines of: "I bet his next New Thing is gonna be something stupid like 'I have never hopped on one foot while saying the pledge of allegiance at exactly 9:17 p.m.'" Well, maybe that will be my next New Thing. But it's my Year of New Things, so I can hop on one foot while saying the pledge of allegiance at exactly 9:17 p.m. if I want to.
Anyway, the text message conversation started out fairly simple. Like this:
ERIK: Like, whatever.
This was how I decided to say hello. Nikki's a teenager, and so I thought it was an appropriate hello. So then I got her response:
NIKKI: I know, right?
Awesome, she knows exactly what I'm talking about. So I replied:
And then she continued, still with me:
NIKKI: For sure.
And then I was like:
ERIK: Listen girlfriend, that's what I'm talking about.
(Seriously, that was my response.) And then she responded:
NIKKI: Like totally, for real, i'm like: ok!
But then she ended the game:
NIKKI: Haha…SO…how r u big cousin?
And I could have just said “fine,” which is what you usually say when someone asks you how you are, and probably what I would have said to my cousin in the past because she’s ten years younger than I am, but the truth is that, before this text message conversation, I’d been at a funeral, and it had been a long, sad day. So instead of saying “fine,” I told my cousin about my day, and we had a real conversation. Kind of odd to be having a real conversation via text messages, but it was real nonetheless.
And if the main goal of my Year of New Things is to have some new experiences, well, having a text message conversation with my cousin Nikki was just that. But it was more than that, too. The way I see it, it marks a shift in our relationship. I feel like she and I are transitioning from our old relationship (which, because of our ten year age difference, has always been along the lines of older cousin/kid cousin/playful) into a new one (which is becoming more of a "we're cousins but we’re also friends so we can talk about shit" kind of relationship).
And I like this new relationship that my little cuz and I are forming. So I’m marking down our text message conversation as New Thing #17.
Or, like, whatever.