Saturday, July 27, 2013


One of my cousins was the 200th person to like my Casa On and Off TheRez Facebook Page.  I had planned, to write about Cousins in general as my next blog topic, as kind of a celebration for my 200-milestone.  Then, to add to the pressure, it was “National Cousin Day” earlier this week.  (Thanks for the reminder, Ellen DeGeneres.)  But it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to say.

My cousins have always played a really big role in my life.  They were my first friends and the people that I trusted most in the world, growing up. 

Like a lot of people around us, we grew up really hard.  We didn’t go on family vacations or have great big family reunions.  In fact, we rarely even had meals together.  Everyone would be sent home at dinnertime to eat their own family’s meals.  Everyone was broke, you couldn’t just go around feeding extra kids.  I always used to take note of the question in TV or movies, “Can so-and-so stay for dinner?”  We never even asked in our house, but if we had, I know what response we would have gotten.  “Eee! Tell them to go home! I can’t afford to feed them!”

I saw my cousins every day growing up, I’d see them early in the morning and we’d be together till the sun started to go down, every evening.  We were in the same classes at school, we played together, we fought together, we were everyday family during my entire childhood. 

We spent a lot of time unsupervised and we were always responsible for each other.  This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I cringe at the thought of the dangerous things we did or were exposed to.  Like the time my brother sliced his scalp open running through a partially collapsed barb wire fence.     

My older siblings and cousins never liked the younger ones hanging out with them, we were the worst at everything, but they knew if we went home complaining, that someone would get whooped.  We always had it in our back pockets, “I’m gonna tell Hu’uli that you’re not letting me play!”  A lot of times they were just stuck with us.   

The cousins who were my age played together every day.  We didn’t go in each other’s houses too often.  Their Mom or my Mom always wanted us outside.  We climbed trees and roamed the desert. 

We always found things to play with, mostly things that were discarded as trash.  We rarely had new toys and if someone did have a new toy, it was unfair that only one person had it.  Sharing was hard, but it was built into our friendship and we were always trying to figure out how to make a little go a long way.  There’s only one bike and 13 cousins who want to ride it?  Sure, everyone can have a turn, but only from here to that tree, and it’s a game.  Fastest wins! Hurry!

We played countless games of tag, hide and seek and kick the can over the years.     

We had get-rich schemes that (obviously) didn’t work, but which we were convinced would.    

We weren’t always good and we didn’t always play nicely.  I had two cousins who always got mad, no matter what we were doing and would always march home angry.  If they did, we knew the party was over and someone was freakin’ in for it. 

Surprisingly, we didn’t get spanked the time we pretended to lock our littlest cousin in the dark shed behind Hu’uli-bat’s house, and she stayed in there, even though it wasn’t locked.  Then she went home crying.  (I still feel bad about that one.)

We spent both the good times and the bad times with our cousins.  We were there to ooh and aah over their brand new shoes that made them run faster, and we were there sitting next to them at the funerals that changed their lives forever, and mine.     

We don’t all live close to each other anymore.  Most of us are married and have kids of our own now.  When we do have a few minutes to catch up with each other, I find myself saying things like, “You know how she is.” when talking about my Mom.  And they do, there’s no need to explain.  They know my life story.     

In the O’odham way, now our kids and my cousins kids our all cousins too.  It’s magic to see them play together.  They pick up and play as if they’ve known each other forever.  Maybe they have, and maybe they will.        

I don't know what the artist's intent was with this image. 
But I see it and I think of awesome games of kick-the-can. 


  1. we didn't grow up on the rez, but I can so relate to the cousins in my life the same way. we too have all moved all across the country but reminisce the same way of the back in the day when we were kids. The O'odham way is our way of life, and has been installed in my children too.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I loved playing kick the can. My cousins were a huge part of my life growing up as well. Good read Gabby.

  3. Thanks for the comments! I love reading them!
    I know some people stil can't comment. :( I'm working on getting that fixed.

  4. Wow! Great writing! It definitely brought back memories. I m having flashbacks of growing up back home.