By Terri Mudd
Cousins are incredibly important in my book. I guess my first encounter with such creatures is the reason.
It was 1934. My father died in the fall of that year, leaving my mother to raise two teenage girls and a baby of 3 years (me).
Now, Mom wasn’t bereft of opportunity. Dad had obtained rights to the concession of a city-owned golf course, which gave us a roof over our heads and food in return for a lot of hard work – kitchen concession, golf pro, handling city funds and maintenance of the building.
To fully understand the situation, one would have to know my mother at that time. She had been transferred from her mother’s protective oversight to Daddy’s protective oversight.
She had delivered three children, and maintained a home while Daddy scrounged for work from Denver to Scott’s Bluff, Neb. But she had led a sheltered life, protected first by her mother, then by her husband.
After Daddy died, Mom had a nervous breakdown, and spent time in the hospital. However, she managed to delegate her responsibilities at the golf course. My sister, who was a teenager, assumed a lot of responsibility.
Mom farmed me out to cheerful keepers until I was about 8 years old, and eventually she pulled through all of this.
But the picture of my mother in that first Christmas season without my father is a pathetic one. And there enters the family.
Mom’s half-sister lived in Omaha, Neb. Her husband worked for the railroad, so their family was secure and relatively well off during the Depression years.
Aunt Toots and her husband, Uncle John, sent my mother railway tickets for the four of us – my two sisters, Mom and me – to spend Christmas with them. I remember the details as vividly as if it were yesterday. Those details are painted with the colors of love.
The train ride was wonderful. In dreams, I can still feel the chugging and rocking of the car as it rolled along the tracks, making a steamy whistle sound at crossings. I can feel my mother’s warm coat that I was tucked against.
The stay in Omaha was a little taste of heaven. We were with Aunt Toots and Uncle John and their four children – three boys and a girl. They were all near my sisters’ ages. I was far and away the baby.
From the moment we detrained, the entire family set out to secure a wonderful holiday for all of us.
Among the highlights were nightly Monopoly games. I was tucked in bed, of course, but the bedroom was just off the dining room where these uproarious events took place.
The roaring of laughter, and indignation, would go on late into the night.
My joys were many, aside from listening to the family laugh. My cousin John had a paper route. One evening he tucked me in the bag designed for papers, placed it on the handlebars of his bike and let me travel the route with him. I had frequent rides on the shoulders of devoted cousins. And my cousin Patricia, a teenager, gave me her doll buggy for my Christmas doll.
That week stands in my memory as thoroughly happy. Distance, and the adult opportunity to place the visit in the midst of the deep sorrow my family was suffering, gives me reason to deeply experience the comfort of love in action.