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My Cousin Adam - The Early Years


My poor cousin Adam, he was doomed from the start. He was the only boy - the middle child - between my other four cousins, his 4 sisters. The two older ones were 2 and 4 years older and the younger twins were 2 years younger. But despite everything, he was the most fun of all the cousins I had. Adam was 2 years younger than me.

In my generation there are 16 cousins. 4 boys and 12 girls. Beside my sister and I, there were 4 girls and 2 boys on my dad's side and 7 girls and one boy (Adam) on my moms. Us guys had to stick together and Adam and I were very close - when we had the chance to get together. See, even back in the early years when we all lived in Ohio, we lived far enough away that we didn't see each other all that often. When we did, we just picked up where we left off the last time as if we hadn't been apart at all.

Adam was as skinny as a rail. But his nickname was "garbage can" because he ate everything in sight. I remember after a big family meal of mom's lasagna, there were still a few helpings left in the pan. Adam ate them. There were still some portions left on some of his sister's plates. Adam ate them, too. He was also lactose intolerant, although back then one would just say they are allergic to milk. If he did drink or eat any dairy products, he would burp it up for the next few hours, then chew it up an swallow it. He made sure someone would see him do it just to gross them out.

My aunt and uncle lived in a rural setting in NE Ohio and they always had a huge garden mostly because they didn't make a lot of money and supplemented their food budget with it (especially with the "garbage can" and four other mouths to feed), and also because they loved to garden. My aunt would can a very large amount of food - tomatoes, green beans, corn, apple sauce - among others. They had a large pantry in their basement for storage of all the canned goods - literally hundreds of cans (Mason jars, actually). This pantry happened to be right across from Adam's and the oldest sister's bedrooms which my uncle had built and finished for them. The small house only had 3 upstairs bedrooms. You may see where I'm going with this, but just wait, it gets good.

When I would visit my cousins, without exception we would wait for night to fall and play a game in the fairly open basement. It was called "The Dark Game". With one light on (and pitch black otherwise), we would all take a position in the basement and we could all see each other. One person would be by the light switch and when all were ready, they would pull the string. The idea was to creep quietly around until you "tagged" someone. Once tagged, you had to freeze (giggling was allowed) - and just call your name out so the others would know who had been frozen. The game ends when all but one are frozen, then you start it all over again. Many times we would bang into things, fall down, poke an eye, etc because it was pitch black. My older cousin Connie actually chipped her front teeth playing the dark game. We would all be busting out laughing so hard our sides would hurt.

One time we stopped playing and starting talking about something. Someone mentioned the rafters in the basement. They had all sorts of things stored up in those rafter spaces. Camping equipment, tarps, a lot of scrap wood planks and 2 X 4s, steel tubing, etc. The next thing I knew, an empty Mason jar was pulled from a hidden spot in the rafter. My cousin explained that Adam was sneaking food from the pantry...frequently. They proceded to pull about a half dozen other empty jars down, and Adam would just laugh, nervously, about his little scheme. The jars went back in place as my cousins just loved having something over on him to use as blackmail.

Sometime went by and I think it was a few months later at another visit to my cousins house - something had happened. Adam and I went to his room and started talking. I said let's do something or the other and he said he didn't have it anymore. He didn't have this, that, or the other thing any more either. I asked what happened. He suggested I talk to his older sister.

She explained that their mother had been getting suspicious, and decided one day to do a little house cleaning in the basement. What did she find? About 120 empty Mason jars hidden in the basement rafters. Some had spoons in them, and mold. I know for a fact the even more jars were found later in spots too good even for my aunt to find.

Even after all of that, Adam was still a string bean. He must have had one of the highest metabolisms possible.

It's funny the things we do as kids that we think we'll get away with.

Adam grew up as someone to be very proud of. That story will be next......

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