When two of your three grandchildren are siblings and the third one is not, that makes all of them cousins, even though the first two are not cousins of each other but only of the third, who is a cousin of the first two but not of himself.
That makes the cuckoo who concocted this cockamamie cousin conundrum a grandfather twice removed, which means he should have been removed from a family get-together twice already but, to the consternation of everyone else, keeps coming back.
It happened recently when my wife, Sue, and I were visited by our three grandchildren: Chloe, who is 5 and a half; her little sister, Lilly, who is almost 2; and their cousin, Xavier, who’s a year and a half.
We are fortunate to see Chloe and Lilly frequently because they live about 25 miles away, but it’s not often that we see Xavier because he lives almost 300 miles away. So when there is a chance for all of them to get together, we jump at the opportunity, Sue gracefully with a perfect landing, me clumsily with a stubbed toe and a score that would have gotten me thrown out of the Olympics.
And it takes an Olympian effort to keep up with all of them because they are full of energy, while I am full of, well, diapers, which I have never minded changing for any of them and still do for the youngest two.
Now that I have come clean about it, I should add that the kids have distinct personalities. Chloe relishes her role as big sister and big cousin and takes an almost maternal approach to Lilly and Xavier, showering them with love. Chloe also has a great sense of humor. At dinner during a visit by my mother, Rosina, known to her great-grandchildren as Gigi, Chloe told jokes.
“Knock, knock,” she told the assemblage, which included my nephew Blair and my niece Whitney.
“Who’s there?” we all inquired.
“Don’t cry,” Chloe responded with perfect timing. “It’s just a joke.”
When the line got a big laugh, she beamed. Then she told more jokes.
Lilly is the pistol of the trio. She doesn’t tell jokes, but she gets laughs anyway.
“Nini! Poppie! Nini! Poppie!” she chatters to Sue and me. She’ll go up to our Amazon Echo and shout, “Alexa!” When the device activates, Lilly says, “Moana! Moon!” Then she’ll break into a spontaneous dance when a song from the soundtrack to one of her favorite movies, such as “Moana” or “Sing,” starts playing.
Lilly also eats more than Chloe and Xavier combined but is still a peanut who’s about five pounds lighter than Xavier, even though she’s five months older than he is.
Xavier is a sweet, quiet boy with a perennial smile and an infectious giggle, which I love to trigger with silly sounds and funny faces, which I ordinarily make anyway. Unlike Chloe and Lilly, who love Sue but are more attached to me, Xavier loves me but is more attached to Sue, who exulted at finally being the favorite grandparent by hoisting him into her arms, no easy feat since he’s a big boy, and doing a victory lap around the family room.
Xavier also loves Chloe and called for her after she went home. When she and Lilly returned a couple of days later, Xavier hugged Chloe. He and Lilly are more competitive, vying for the same toys, but they get along well, too.
That was evident when the three of them romped in the backyard, splashing in the kiddie pool, running under the sprinkler and drawing on the patio with chalk.
Chloe drew hopscotch squares, then counted in French as she hopped.
“I love doing hopscotch in French!” she exclaimed.
“Magnifique, Chloe!” I said.
“Merci, Poppie!” she replied.
Lilly and Xavier added their artistry, not only to the patio but to our outdoor furniture. The Louvre would have loved it.
But not as much as Sue and I love our grandchildren. It was great to have them together, which doesn’t happen too often. We can’t wait for the next time.
Till then, I’ll keep trying to figure out that cockamamie cousin conundrum. Maybe when all the kids come back, they can explain it to me.
— Jerry Zezima