March 27, 2016
This isn't about what you think it is about. I'm not going to explain how you figure out exactly what to say when you have family in for the holiday weekend and you hear one sister, locked into the bathroom with her 11-year-old daughter say, "Tell me all the things you have learned from this incident" as said daughter stands dripping in her Easter dress haven fallen in the backyard lake. . . while at that precise moment you hear your other niece's voice from a different direction saying loudly to your other sister (her mother), "What do you mean you were changing Ava's diaper on the middle of the bed without a pad and she left a mess?"
In both instances, the correct response is to keep your head down and your eyes on your own paper! You can't actually make sense of your extended family in these situations, any more than you can when your own children or your own parents do things you prefer they hadn't.
Instead, I would like to provide a guide to the other part of family that never makes sense: what is a cousin "removed" and how is that different from a second cousin? Scan the chart below until you find "YOU ARE HERE." Then read up and to the right to figure out what to call your ancestors, and down and to the right to figure out what to call your descendants.
This came to mind this morning when I took both my niece and my great niece to church. Of course, because they are both incredibly precious,
many of our friends and church cronies wanted to meet them. I started out saying, "This is my great niece Ava and my niece Emma."
Every time I said that though, the little voice in my head said "Emma is just as great as Ava. . . that's not fair." So I amended my introduction and said, "This is my great niece Ava and my excellent niece Emma." But, of course, since we had spent most of Saturday making awful egg puns (Aren't we having an egg-strordinary time together? Do you know any egg yolks? Someone's got some eggs-plaining to do.), I kept slipping up and calling Emma my egg-cellent niece. Which felt a little weird and caused me to switch to "This is my great niece Ava and my fabulous niece Emma" and that worked just fine.
It worked so well that I figured I could follow the same logic at the next extended family reunion. That way I won't have to work out who might be my third cousin, just whether they are great, egg-cellent, or plain old fabulous.