On a recent trip to New York, my hometown, I bookended a day by having breakfast with one cousin and drinks with another. But these are more than cousins. To me, they are “frousins” – cousins who’ve become dear friends.
I had breakfast with Felicia, who’s a cousin from my father’s side of the family. Hi, Felicia!
Felicia, who very patiently allows me to call her Fish, moved in with me in 1986 for a month. She still lives in that Columbus Avenue apartment. Here’s the entrance. Our apartment – well, hers, really – is on the fourth floor.
Growing up, Felicia lived on Long Island. My family moved to Westchester County when I was ten, so we didn’t see that much of each other. Plus, she had a sister and then there were Fran and Jill, two other sisters who were also my cousins. We’re all around the same age – in fact, Fran and I are exactly one hour apart – but the four of them lived near each other and I didn’t, so I always felt shy around their tight quartet. That was on me, not them. As adults, that insecurity on my part melted away, and I grew to know them better, especially my delightful cousin pal, Fish, who I’ve come to adore.
Speaking of “adore,” meet my beloved frousin, Marie.
Marie is a cousin from my mother’s side of the family. She grew up in Astoria, Queens, where all my Italian relatives lived until they departed for the Long Island and New Jersey suburbs. (We Westchesterites were the outliers.) As with Fish, Marie and I didn’t spend much time together as kids. We were basically adolescent ships passing in the night – or daytime – at various family functions, from weddings at catering halls to family get-togethers in smoke-filled Queens basements where everyone spoke Italian, ate homemade pasta and wine, and sounded like they were arguing even when they weren’t.
Somehow Marie and I connected in New York in the late 1980s and I immediately fell in love with her. Sadly, she was headed off to Atlanta with her husband while I was off to Los Angeles. But our bond survived distance. She and Brian moved back to New York a couple of years ago – their son Ben lives in the city now – so seeing her when I visit is a top priority. Here’s the view from their current apartment. (They’re moving to another one soon, location TBD.)
I’ve known both these women since childhood, but we redefined our relationships as adults. That’s why I’ve decided to call them my “frousins” – shared familial blood may have brought us into each other’s lives but the bond of friendship is what joins us for life. I truly feel that having Fish and Marie in my life makes me hashtag-blessed. Maybe double-hashtag-blessed because there’s something I can’t explain about our family connection that makes the friendships extra special.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, they’ve never met. We may have to change that on my next visit.
What about you, readers? Do you have a “frousin,” or a relative who you would value as a friend even if you weren’t related?