Today, I am the mother of three. I am the sister of one. I am the niece of four and the granddaughter of one.
Technically, I am the cousin of one.
Some families have so many cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, mothers and fathers that they can't sit comfortable around one large table.
Not mine, we fit around two tables - pushed together.
Some families have lost track of each other because of the sheer number of people to keep track of.
Not mine, we're all here, right here near each other. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Some families bicker and let personal issues wedge spaces in between them, leaving some wondering where they come from or which side of the family they get their bushy eyebrows.
Not mine, we know where we get our funny family traits, exactly where.
We are a small and mighty bunch. My family.
There might not be a lot of us, but the love we share (not to sound cliche) is bigger than each of us.
And yet, I always begged my parents to give me a little sister. I wished for another sibling with each candle I blew out on the birthday cake, each first star I would see and each thought of a magic genie coming to grant me those three wishes that all children ask for.
Sure I loved my brother.
But I wanted more of us. And so, with each available wish, much like I would yearn for a pony to keep in my backyard, I would wish for another sibling.
Little did I realize, the child I was, that I had that sister all along.
My one and only cousin. Jenny.
Everyone else calls her Jen, but she lets only my brother and I (and now, my kids) call her Jenny. Older than me by a year, she never wanted to play Barbies with me. But she would play just about anything else, especially board games. She often took my brother's side in our little squabbles, but I've forgiven her for that. She was smart, she played a musical instrument and had her driver's license before me. I remember those first months of freedom, zooming around her hometown in her little Escort, she was like a dream. An independent, pretty, wow-she-can-drive-and-I-haven't-a-clue dream that actually let me ride in her car with her. I think that's when I realized that this cousin that had been by my side for many a childhood adventure, was more like me than I'd ever thought. That space between us grew smaller and smaller from then on until it disappeared into the air with not a trace to be seen.
When Brett and I were married, his brother was the obvious choice to stand next to him as we exchanged vows.
And I asked of my cousin the same.
Not because I thought I should.
Or because I thought it would make sense.
Or because she was my only cousin.
I asked her to stand by my side because she is the closest thing to a sister that I have. Her place in my life has always been a gift that I kept on a shelf and didn't open until I was ready. She has always been there, quietly guiding me in her own way, as only an older sister can. And I asked her to stand by me because I wanted her to be there, by my side, on one of the most important days of my life.
Because even though I don't call her my sister, she is. She and I share half of the same blood. We share our entire lives and all the people that we call "family". And through the good and the bad, she's there, my sister. She loves with her whole heart and gives with her whole heart.
I glance at the pictures of us as little girls, always laughing, always giggling, hands interlaced as we run in the same direction, our red hair similar and yet so different, happy. It is she and I. There we are.
And to the best sister-cousin in the world, the best birthday wishes in the world.
I hope you get all that you wish for, Jenny.