Cousins, and hunting, but not at all about shooting a deer.
So pretty much while growing up the first people you learn to socialize with that are remotely close to your age bracket are your siblings- for me that was quite a limited experience as my one sibling looked and acted almost exactly like me- yep, an identical twin. As the circle grows a bit larger cousins are added to the mix, which in my case there were many, locally and others in Iowa who we spent time with two weeks a year- one week in the summer, and one week at Christmas. My cousins who lived in the area were about 10 miles away. We stayed overnight at each other's houses, we ice skated on a frozen marshy area near their home, we played board games in a big closet, we tried out cuss words together, we let birds out of cages at a local pet store, and mostly we were outside unsupervised laughing about something. I have little recollection of the topics, but I remember hearty, laughter.
Life moves on and staying in touch wasn't a priority as we all began our transition to adulthood. We moved, we went to college, got married, we were employed full time, and we had kids. That's certainly enough to stay busy with as time marches on. There was an occasional wedding, funeral, reunion etc. that some of us attended. There were conversations with my mom about big life updates over the years- this cousin built a new house, that cousin retired from the military, another cousin moved far away, etc. Before I knew it there was news about grand children. A couple decades had gone by. My sister and I had the idea last year to try to gather us together on a somewhat regular basis by inviting everyone to a scheduled or spontaneous activity or event. We have gone out to eat, gone on a walk at a park, and had a game night. The relationships have shifted in an extremely pleasant, closer way. We found that those original foundation blocks of companionship just needed to be dusted off and nurtured. These were my first friends. They have kind, compassionate spouses. Our kids are similar ages. We have discovered that as adults we have a lot in common. It has expanded- we have now visited each other's houses, and most recently we have delivered meals to each other due to unforeseen, difficult situations that have affected us all in the last few months. Life can be heavy, but a home cooked meal delivered to you from family members who drove an hour and a half to bring it to you is amazingly appreciated.
Going deeper still. In the past two months one of those cousins and myself have discovered that we both have a passion for hunting deer. There is a term I made up called 'politely listening' - giving your attention to an individual about a topic that you somewhat care about. It's kind to do, you take it in, yet you aren't driven to learn more. Then there is what I call 'actively interested.' That's he and I when it comes to our deer hunting. We text about locations, weapons of choice, time in the stand, does, bucks, distances, wind direction, rain patterns, trail cam footage, hawks, raccoons, turkeys, sunsets, sunrises, and always the next hunt. Our texts contain descriptive words and photos. I love it. He recently traveled to Atlanta for work and I sent a text with my query of "If you are gone who will I text while in my blind?" He almost immediately responded "Me." Yeah, that made me smile.
This past week I made the decision, with Steve's encouragement, to take the better part of a day, drive to my cousin's hunting property in Michigan and hunt side by side. No texting required. I was beyond excited, as I have never traveled to hunt, and I have never hunted with anyone other than Steve. I made a list of items to take, analyzed about which gun to take, packed and repacked. Maybe silly for a day, but that's me. The day contained all of the tools and items required to deer hunt except for me that wasn't my focus. I simply wanted to spend time with my cousin, in his element, in one of his favorite places- to lay eyes on the location he texts about. We talked enough to share parts of our life's journeys from the past, what our hopes are for the future, and we sincerely verbalized how important our families are to us. We mostly just enjoyed our time together sitting in a ground blind in the woods. We were visited by a hawk, a rabbit, a woodchuck, a small buck, two adult does and an adorable small yearling whom he has named 'the orphan' as she has been alone all summer. She hung around a long time in close proximity to us as she decided which direction to wander off to. I know he was disappointed I didn't get a shot at a big buck, but I wasn't. It was a great day and it contained the original foundation pieces- companionship and laughter.