We moved to Madison, NC when I was four. In two weeks the late Billy Fulton and similarly late, Sterling (Tuddy)Webster, were sidekicks for life. The Websters were next door and my first stop to collect them for the day. So as I crawled through the secret tunnel we’d made I noticed their neighbor’s garage was burned to the ground.”What happened to Miss Carrie’s garage?” I asked the whole stunned family as they watch smoldering smoke circle upwards from the ashes.
I grabbed Tuddy aside. ???? “Craig did it. He was hiding in her garage, smoking.”
Relieved it wasn’t Tuddy or Billy, I wondered about Craig. I knew there was a family with Craig (14?) and O’neil (18), who I’d heard “… that older one is a good guy, but watch out for Craig, he’s nuts.”
“Who is Craig, anyway?” I asked Tuddy.”He’s my first cuzzin.” Age 7, I wasn’t sure about genealogy.
When I got home My mom asked what all the excitement about? “Craig burned down Miss Carrie’s garage.”
What? Repeat. Report. Then I asked my also stunned Mother,”… Momma, what is a cuzzin? Do I have a cuzzin? Does it have to be a boy? Staccato to still reeling Geneva Phillps Parham.
Mom : Yes, you have several cousins.
Mom: well, Aunt Mary’s Son, Ed, is one.
Me: Is he the first cousin?
Mom: Well, actually he is!
Me. Is he going to burn our garage down?
Me: What’s so funny? Do I have a second cuzzin? A third? Who are they? Are they dangerous as the Websters.
The total explanation took a while, but Mom did a pretty good job sorting it all out.
So the “Norfolk Phillips” are all first cuzzins–Jack, Henry, Eileen, and Mary Anita? We didn’t travel the then prohibitive journey to Tidewater often. But they travelled well as a group and always made better efforts than the rest of us. So fortunately I knew them enough to be proud they were my cuzzins, as I liked all four and they belonged to Uncle Lindsey. Uncle Lindsey was the youngest sibling of my Mom and her several sisters. Being last and male, Lindsey was messed up. From a bunch of Primitive Baptists, Lindsey escaped with a sense of humor and a taste for the kind of attitude that tickled me. And his siblings, Geneva, Aunt Olive, and Aunt Mary. We all looked to Lindsey for laughs and crafts (He could build anything, including home made toys for the kids. Cuzzins included.)
I’m losing too many. Jack just died after fighting the dreaded one, Alzheimer’s disease. He was the closest age wise to me and I liked talking to Jack. I am sad for Jack, but proud of my first cousins, who lovingly did all they could.