Thursday, June 5, 2014

Claiming Kin and Kissing Cousins

We are funny down here. You have to be real careful when you say anything ugly about someone, chances are if you are in a group of 12 or more, at least one of those folks is going to be kin to that person you are speaking ill of. That is not to say they do not agree with you. We can pick our friends, but Lord if we could only pick our kin, or better yet, permanently cut any known ties to some of them.

While the rest of the world enjoys six degrees of separation. Down here, we have three - at most. Which brings me to what is on my mind.

My husband is a "Williams". As you can imagine that narrows his family down around here. Not hardly! You cannot swing a dead cat without hitting someone with that sir name. To make it more complicated, his mother was a "Williams" and married a "Williams." Stories like this are what perpetuate the myth we marry our cousins. Believe it or not in a rural town of 382 there were two separate Williams' familys. Go figure.

His mother's father was the first cousin of the late Senator Marshal Williams' father. We all went to the same reunion once a year, but the way I looked at it they were not even "kissing" cousins. However in a town the size of ours, one of the first questions you get asked if someone doesn't know you is, "Now which Williams are you?"  I could easily answer that referring to my husband's family. But there were always those who asked, "Are you kin to the Senator?" 

I had to think about that one, my answer was usually, "My husband's mother is distantly related." Don't get me wrong I loved the Senator dearly, he was a fine gentleman who served his people well. 

Things got more interesting when I went to work for Judge Karen Williams, who was the Senator's daughter-in-law. The first question after she introduced me was usually, "Are y'all related?" I would say something to the tune of, "My husband and Charles [the Judge's husband] are third or fourth cousins." It suited me fine if it was dropped at that. I never wanted anyone to assume that I was claiming kin to such a well known and thought of family.

The Judge of course, being her gracious self, would go on and try to explain the relationship. She wanted to be more inclusive. I wasn't going to argue with her. One of the benefits (among many) of my job with her was getting to know "Miss" Margaret and the Senator very well. Before his death the Senator was often in our chambers for a visit and it was not unusual for him and "Miss" Margaret to join us for lunch. I have spent many hours at their dining room table as the two of them regaled the Judge's law clerks and me with stories.

After the Senator died, "Miss" Margaret was a regular in and out of our chambers. She and the Judge had a very special relationship. And I would like to say that over the many years, I too, developed a relationship with "Miss" Margaret, who is truly one of a kind.

This all brings me to my thought this morning. After being married 32 years and having spent 14 years working for the Judge, one would think this was all old hat to me. But yesterday afternoon someone commented, "Well there is that family connection with the Senator." Yes, there is a connection to the Senator. He was a dear man I thought the world of and had the pleasure of knowing, but I am not going to claim kin. Besides, even if I wanted to, it gets complicated.

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