Growing up, some of your first friends are your cousins. They're the ones you always hang out with ever since you are born. They're these strangers that you meet and start to see more and more frequently and oddly enough, you're related to them. You begin to form a bond with them. A bond that can not be easily broken. With enough time and effort, you can grow very close to these people, your cousins. Ultimately, your parents always treated your cousins like they were their own kid. And if you were lucky like me, you became so close that they actually began to feel like the extra siblings you never had.
I have a very large family. I'm number 5 out of 13 (soon to be 14) cousins. Our ages range from 8 all the way up to 29. We were blessed enough that our parents forced us to get together for every birthday, holiday, celebration, and everything in between. Because of this, we have been able to become so close despite the age gaps.
When I was much younger, I did everything with my cousins, we had the best childhoods together. From trips to Kennywood, to trips to the playground at South Park, to movie nights and game nights, to going swimming in the summer. We did it all. The memories are endless. We've all had our fair share of fights, arguments and disagreements with one another, but we were always forced to work it out and hug it out. We all continue to grow and become different people, but we learn more and more about each other every time we're all together.
However, over the past few years, we've faced many trials, as any family does. We lost some people, but are gaining others. It's incredible how the Lord works. Although we lost two important people to all of us, He brought in my cousin's wife and their expected baby girl. He always provides. He provided us with one another over the last few years; as a shoulder to cry on, a shoulder to lean on and even a shoulder to smile on.
My cousins are not only my best friends, but they're like my other siblings. I know I can always count on them and they can count on me. Each year we make an effort to take a cousin picture with our grandparents because it gets harder and harder for all of us to get together. Although our grandma passed away two years ago, we still continue to take the picture each year with our grandpap. I know everyone hates pictures and it's so hard to get all of us to look at one camera and not one of the six different cameras of each aunt, but some how it always works out. It means a lot to grandpap, it means a lot to our parents, it means a lot to grandma, and it means a lot to me.
Some of us have had the privilege to watch the younger ones grow up since birth, and some of us have grown up together and have been able to watch each other grow into the people we are today. We've done some stupid things, we've done some crazy things, but we rarely ratted each other out. From all of the 'family drama' to the craziness and goofiness, we always understand each other and everything that goes on and there's no judgement. We have the craziest stories, like how for a period of time, at every family event, someone always took a trip to the ER. It became a thing. Something else that became a thing was "Kozak Funday Sunday," something that Uncle Joe made up. Mostly because a majority of our family events were on Sundays. He would be proud that his "Kozak Funday Sunday" legacy still lives on today.
So if you're fortunate to be close with your cousins, you'll relate to all that I'm saying, and if you're not, then maybe some day you and your siblings will have children and have all of your kids become super close. My cousins are all so important to me and I'm so blessed to have each of them in my life. Despite having a decently large family, we are so close and love being together. As time continues to pass and we all continue to grow up, I pray that we always remain close at heart.
So to my real siblings and my 'other' siblings, thanks for just being you.
I love you.
"No matter how far we go in life, our childhoods will always bring us back together."