Cousins vague bond more binding than friendship.
Some families are more serious about cousins than others. We never made much of cousins in our family. I can't even remember exactly how many I have. They were nowhere near as important in my life as uncles and aunts. You're more aware of cousins when you're young than you are later.
When I was little, I knew some of my cousins pretty well, but in our family, we treated cousins more like friends. If we liked them, we saw them. If we didn't like them, we hardly ever saw them.
One of the first questions I recall having about cousins is why boy cousins and girl cousins are both called just cousins.
It's as if uncles and aunts were both called by the same word.
Cousins are the only relatives, the word for whom does not distinguish gender. And, come to think of it, English is probably one of the few languages in which the word for boy cousin or girl cousin is the same. In French it's "cousin-cousin", in Spanish, "primo-prima." You always have them and even if 20 years go by without any contact, it's still possible to get together with a cousin and share stories about how Uncle Herbert drove his car through the garage door.
Cousins are the glue in the cracks that hold big families together.
Southerners make more of cousins than people from other parts of the country. In the South, everyone knows their second and third cousins. I hardly know what a second cousin is and I know darn well I couldn't give the definition of a third cousin or a cousin twice removed. Whatever it is, we didn't do third cousins in my family. Just plain cousins were enough to deal with. ("Kissing cousins," I understand.)
Strange things happen with cousins in relation to age.
If your mother has a brother 10 years older than she is, and he has children early in his marriage and your mother has you late, you can end up with a cousin 25 years older than you are. My cousin Bob was more like an uncle than a cousin to me because he was about 15 years older.
Cousins are a great reminder of genes and inheritance. You can know a cousin for years and never give much thought to what he or she looks like and then one day the cousin will turn his head or pick up a glass or a shadow will fall across his forehead and, in a flash, you see a likeness.
There is something about the way the cousin holds his chin or something about the position of his thumb, that reminds you of your father or your mother or yourself. You see some minor gene you have in common and wonder what major genes you share.