At the South Orange train station, I met up with a friend visiting from London. We were both going into the City, so we sat and chatted on the train. When we got to New York, I figured I would go my way and he would go his but he said he was walking in my direction.
We continued to talk about “this and that” when I mentioned that I had just come back from a family reunion in Santa Fe. He asked the reunion family name—that question still baffles me—almost as if he knew that he would know the clan. When I said that it was on my mother’s side and the name is Friedman, with all the Friedmans in the world, he asked where they were from. I curiously began to explain that my mother’s uncle was from Chicago and the family lived in the Midwest, offering that later some of the cousins moved to Miami.
The conversation had started with a discussion of my cousin Chuck and his autobiography since I had just read the manuscript. Next, having also seen him at the reunion, I mentioned Chuck's brother Harvey who lives in Miami. You guessed it! My friend chimed in, “Marvin’s brother?” When I said, “yes!” incredulously, I might add, he responded, “he was my father’s best friend in law school.” The man I was speaking with is Josh Pines, originally from Miami. He went to school with Marvin's daughter Natasha and was off to see her that very afternoon in New York.
Has the world just gotten smaller?
While Natasha and I have never officially met (why not? Come on over to New Jersey Natasha!), it is quite possible we were in the same room once. We both made a sympathy call in Maplewood when Josh’s father passed away. Were we there on the same night?
By the way, that wouldn’t be the first time I was paying respects on the same day as another cousin, and possibly we were in the same room, not knowing one another. That cousin's uncle by marriage, whom he was close with, was a partner in the law firm Arnee was working at when the uncle passed away and we made that sympathy visit in Elizabeth. When I finally met my first cousin Alan, in 2011, when he was 75 (the story is in my book) and we made the connection about Arnee working with his uncle in Newark, I couldn’t help but wonder if we had been in that room together in Elizabeth in the 1980s.
How many cousins in my family will meet next year? Hopefully, none will be at a sympathy call but rather some fun places like Cleveland, Brooklyn or Charleston. Just this year on the Friedman side alone, we had some wonderful family gatherings. When my son married in Cleveland, my brothers and my children all got to visit with our older cousin Lois living in the area. At her suggestion, my son Moss met up with one of her grandsons, from his generation, as they are both living in New York.
Also, Arnee and I were in Charleston when my cousin Alyce, who I've always known, drove up from Georgia with her husband and got to meet other Friedman cousins, Marty and his wife Julie, who joined us from their South Carolina home. It was through my family tree research that I first found Marty in the 1990s. His grandfather was an estranged brother of Alyce's and my grandfather. The group of us are seen here in the photograph.
Now is the time to round up your cousins. Don't make it daunting or wait for a sympathy call to make it haunting. Make it fun!