Cousins

Kelsey Breseman
3 min readJun 4, 2024
Photo by Eileen Breseman

When I arrived in Pelican, family members greeted me all excited about the coming baby. I have an aunt in town, her son and his wife, their two daughters— now preteens— and various other cousins as they come and go on fishing boats.

We see the girls just once a year, when we're up here, which is like watching a flipbook of kids growing up. They were putting together a jigsaw puzzle one year, excited about ballet another.

Last year, they showed me how they could hang on a pull up bar and how to do the line dances they had memorized. My circus tricks have not yet failed to impress. I'm not sure how old they think I am, but they are always shocked the number is so high.

The girls are very excited that I'm pregnant, especially the younger one. When we cross paths at her grandma's house over the course of our visit, she asks a series of blunt questions, especially when the "adults" aren't in the room: "What will you call the baby?" "Where will the baby be raised?" "Why do you call your dad Rick?" "Do you like the way your parents raised you?" "Who's that in your phone background?" "Are you and Robert ready to be parents?" I don't discourage her.

On the boardwalk, Rick is contributing to the construction of his sister's cabin. We all come out to help hang the front door.

"It has to be square, plumb, level, and true," I explain to the girls, quoting a YouTube video I've just watched on the subject. I show them how a level works. Eileen asks them if they know about right angles; they've just been learning about them in school.

"But do you know why they matter?" I ask. I have them lean forward or back, forming acute and obtuse angles between their bodies and the boardwalk. "See how much harder it is to not fall over? That's why we try to make right angles when we're building things."

My aunt and her granddaughters come out to spend the night a couple of days before we leave, bringing fresh fruit and good venison. We've been speculating whether the girls will want the company and cuddles of staying in the same cabin as their grandma, or be excited to have their own space; we're giving them their choice of tiny cabins.

It turns out both are true. They're happy drawing and painting in the main cabin with me until the boys— their friends and the only kids living out at Sunnyside— show up on the beach. Then they're out the door, and they'd rather not see any grown ups at the Lupine Cabin, which they've claimed. But at two in the morning, they go and wake up grandma where she's staying back in the Otter Cabin because nighttime is just a little too scary.

In the morning, the ten year old makes sourdough pancakes with nutmeg and vanilla in the cast iron pan. She likes breakfast, and cooks this all the time— she just needs help reaching the ingredients and holding the measuring spoons sometimes. But at the stove, she's a pro.

The pancakes are fluffy, delicious, snatched off the plate by me, Rick, Eileen, and her sister before they have time to cool. I offer to spell her so we don't eat all the blueberry sauce before she sits down, but she's adamant, laughingly fending off my help and Rick's ample unwanted suggestions for different shapes and cooking temperatures.

As a family, we eat the whole double batch.

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