All of my cousins are younger than me, so it’s natural that, over time, I’ve developed soft spots for each one of them. I have six cousins and Michael is – hands down – the one I’ve always had a motherly instinct for. He was a cute little kid who, though Italian, looked not-so-Italian; he had white peach fuzz all over his face and ginger hair. Show me an Italian with ginger hair and I’ll show you a purple watermelon – they just don’t exist!
Michael and I have always had very similar interests. We both love nerdy things like comic books, war epics, wizards, dragons, and Lord of the Rings. We’re both relatively quiet individuals in a sea of family members who are overly loud and madcap (did I mention we’re Italian?). We use our eyes to communicate when mostly everyone around us uses their hands to express themselves. I’ve always said that Mike and I are more like brother and sister rather than cousins. We come from the same mold and were crafted from the same pot of ingredients.
As for the possibly abusive undertone of this post’s title, yes I used to push Michael off the back of a fire engine. Him and his older brother Adam used to have this awesome red fire engine that a couple of kids could sit in and drive around. We used to zoom around my aunt and uncle’s basement in this contraption on the daily and because Michael was the youngest, he always got shoved in the back of the truck where it was easiest to fall off. He’d tumble off the back and start crying immediately and me and Adam would laugh (sorry Mike). But, without fail, I’d climb out of the fire engine, scoop Michael up in my arms and kiss him until he stopped whimpering. Deep down, despite his tears, I knew he secretly enjoyed this whole process. Right, Mike?
I got Michael one of his very first jobs at Toys R Us. I had worked at our neighbourhood store for four or five years and when I heard that they were hiring, I thought of my cousin right away. Hmmm … who would I love to spend more time with? Michael! He got the job and he stayed on for years after I eventually left. We trusted each other and knew what made each other tick. We were so close we could practically read each other’s minds – and still can.
Sometimes I look at my cousin and think how incredibly lucky I am to have him in my life (and it’s the same with ALL my cousins, not just Mike). Our family unit has always been incredibly close and tight-knit and we all grew up doing everything together; strawberry picking, cottage jaunts up North, going to the cinema together, colouring in the same colouring books and using the same container of broken Crayola crayons, and making castles with wooden building blocks and reluctantly knocking them down when the adults told us it was time to clean up and go to bed.
Michael got married just over a week ago and I caught myself crying a handful of times that day. Him and his wife Alessandra are two peas in a pod and I couldn’t imagine my cousin with anyone else. They compliment each other beautifully and their love and respect for each other is clearly evident. I cried because I was so unbelievably happy for him. He’s my baby cousin and to see him marrying the woman of his dreams in front of the whole family was almost a surreal experience. Truly, it’s the happiest I’ve ever been – the feeling was one of euphoria.
Michael, you’ve made me – all of us, in fact – so so proud. I’ve watched you grow up from a little tyke being thrown off the back of a fire truck to a wonderful man who is unlike any man I’ve ever met. I’ve cradled you in my arms and held you till you stopped crying when you were little. I’ve given you the biggest bear hugs when everyone else around us greeted each other with two-cheek air kisses. I’ve sat next to you at every family gathering because there was no one else I’d rather be side-by-side with. We’re certainly a pair, aren’t we?
Love you to the moon and back xx