“Time for the big splash contest!” my mom called loudly across the pool area. Despite the splashing and the yelling, the shouts of victory from the badminton court, the searing sounds from the grill and the animated conversations everyone seemed to pull to attention at these six simple words.
Big splash meant business.
Within seconds nearly twenty of us were lined up at the diving board, ready. My mom, the official judge, took her position on the side of the pool, wearing a perfectly dry, at least for now, T-shirt.
The first of us stepped up on the end of the board as my mom began to recite, “one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to,” a hush filled the enclosure as my cousin tensed for take off, “go!”
He jumped, up, higher and higher, one knee clutched to his chest. As he smashed into the water a tremendous upward splash erupted dousing the poolside pansies in chlorine and drenching my mom’s once dry shirt.
Oos, ahhs, applause, critique and then the next cousin stepped up.
This was how every fourth of July went in the Werth family. But it didn’t have to be fourth of July, Thanksgiving or New Year’s (the three biggest holiday’s in a family where everyone is a different religion) for such a contest to take place. There were weekends of volleyball or ultimate frisbee. There were get together’s for arts and crafts or just an evening beach trip. There were emergency shopping trips and movies. There were many days where I just found myself at an Uncle’s house for dinner or in a cousin’s bed instead of my own. And, of course, there was always Sandy Island – our annual one week vacation all together.
Technically I was born the youngest of four siblings, technically the only girl, but to me, it always felt more like I was the 13th of 19, the 6th of 10 girls, the middle triplet of those born in 1995, and that’s exactly what my dad, aunts and uncles intended.
Yes, it was loud and hectic. We were those neighbors who’s party you could hear all the way down the block. We were that family that came into the restaurant and requested a table for 30. We were those people in the movie theater that took up two rows right in the middle and wouldn’t stop laughing, talking and heckling the entire time. We were that family that stopped all traffic because one kid decided to run across the street, while two were climbing a fire escape and another was having a major accident right on the side walk.
We were one Werth family – not four separate ones.
For me, the word cousin was synonymous with instant friend: a playmate, a confident, a cuddle buddy who was ready the moment you were born. Just add water.