The brisk, frigid wind burnt my face as I stood a few yards away from the backyard fence. I waited for the pass from my cousin; a torn up black and magenta foam football was hurled my way. I jumped and lunged for it, only to feel a soft thud on my stomach and see the ball fall to the ground. My cousins angrily reproached me, but my blunder did not make a difference after Thanksgiving dinner.
The tradition of the eight-hour car ride to my cousins' home in Virginia has been a tacit rule in our family. No matter how much it snowed the night before or how foreboding the road conditions seemed that morning, the tradition was upheld. Maybe it was the pressure my sister and I put on our parents or their own desire to see the few relatives we have in America. Thanksgiving holidays have always been the right time.
We have known each other practically our entire lives, shared inside jokes, grown through hard times and always felt comfortable together. This time, however, things were different. It could have been that my younger cousin was almost as tall as I, or that my older one had just started college and was flaunting his Duke paraphernalia.
As I think about it now, I know that what I sensed as different that Thanksgiving was our growing up. Before, we had always been children, innocent and carefree as the wind that burnt my cheeks red. Now I could see more the man in my older cousin than the child that I used to know so well. His problems were different than mine, his philosophies seemed so complex and unfamiliar to me. His maturing was the first real discovery of the bridge into the adult world. Before my parents' world and mine had seemed like two separate entities: theirs being the one of responsibility, authority and wisdom, mine filled with questions, concerns and problems they helped me figure out. Now I could see the gray area where my universe would slowly melt into theirs.
I suppose that Thanksgiving was the perfect time for my revelation - each year we had twelve long months separating us, time to grow up and mellow before our next family reunion. I never did realize until that momentous weekend that my cousin was almost a man - and that I would soon follow -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.