THE small child is carried into the lunch party by her father. Her eyes dart quickly across the room until she sees the object of her affection. It is 12-year-old Charlie, her tall verging-on-teenage cousin, leader of the cousin pack. He greets her happily enough, if somewhat awkwardly. The three-year-old attaches herself to his legs to give him a welcoming hug... that is as high as she reaches. He picks her up.
This is an adults’ celebration. The eight young cousins are all meeting together for their own tribal gathering. I have arranged activities outside under cover, in the barbecue area. All ages from 12 down to three. There is a close kinship, the connectedness they all feel as cousins. Where does that come from? Reunions are excitedly looked forward to, notwithstanding the differences in age. Four girls, four boys.
The boys greet each other excitedly. Minecraft and various other computer games are enthusiastically discussed. Nicholas hovers hopefully, a little outside the earnest discussion. At home he is allowed much less time on the iPad, more time outside exploring his acre of bushland with sister Millie. He listens patiently, enjoying his acceptance as part of the group. He is the boss when they visit his home. He is thrilled he is now old enough to be accepted into the inner circle of Charlie and Oscar, no longer in despair calling out “wait for me, wait for me,” unable to keep up, as happened when he was younger.
Elliot, the youngest of the four boys, is the serious collector of the group. He has collected almost every Thomas the Tank Engine known to man. His knowledge of Thomas includes the name of every engine and its provenance in the history of Thomas. He is just eight years old. His cousins are in awe of his knowledge and his passion.
The call to lunch provokes an immediate response from all eight cousins, who line up ahead of everyone for their allotted platefuls. They pick away at food, far too busy to eat.
Lunch over and sisters Gabrielle and Lucy, and cousins Millie and Olive hover around the table decorating cardboard eggs and masks, chatting cheerfully.
Gabi is their leader, 10 years old. They all use glitter and textas with skill and artistry. Millie works intricately and precisely. Olive decorates everything with stickers. Gabi supervises everyone. Mother Hen to her chicks, she proudly flashes her pink braces. Her parents are still reeling at the bill.
One-armed bandit Lucy brandishes a broken elbow, the result of ignoring the family rule to forget the flying fox, and has learnt a harsh lesson about consequences of such courage and recklessness. We all give her sympathy and understanding and tell her how brave she is. She soldiers on.
Laughter and the clink of glasses resound inside the venue. Speeches commence.
The cousins climb over Big Pig, the huge black sculptured pig in the gardens. Olive settles on its neck, resembling a wispy lost fairy. She hugs it warmly, a photo opportunity too good to ignore.
The children move on to the full-sized sculptured horse, find a piece of string and pretend to ride it. Four can fit on its back. A bit squishy. Olive hangs on grimly. Winged Lucy pats its nose and eventually takes courage to hop on its back despite the plastered elbow, hoisted up by big brother Charlie and cousin Oscar.
The cousins won’t remember the party the adults enjoyed, or any of the speeches they ignored, but they will all remember the black pig and the life size horse. That was their day.