My Cousin: Then and Now

You know those people who, despite not having a reason to, you just despise? The ones who you can’t help but glare at, infuriated by their lack of a response towards your deep-seated hate? The people who stare at you with confused eyes, then have the audacity to mock you by smiling?


Yeah. Everyone was “that person” when I was an eight-year-old.


And boy, was I a bratty, spoiled child. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I’d like to think that I’ve grown into a much better person–at least, I sincerely hope so. My parents (bless their hearts) often tease me about my angry tantrums. I tend to skirt around the memories of my eighth year of existence, because they make me want to go back in time and give my younger self a stern lecture on respect.


But my cousin, in particular, was an easy target for my evil second-grade mind. To spare you the gory details, I’ll just say that I recently had the chance to very honestly–albeit very awkwardly–apologize for my terrible behavior.


My cousin has flown halfway across the world from China to grace my family with his presence again. That, and to study English. I’m in half a mind to warn him that English is a ridiculously confusing language, but he’s a smart person. He’ll figure it out.


When my cousin and aunt landed in Austin late last night, I was struck by how different things were; time really does change people. But not only was I wrapping my head around the fact that my bubbly cousin grew into a hulking giant, I was also smiling when I realized that, yes: time does change people, but some things never change.


My aunt walked into our home with a suitcase full of gifts we don’t need and a voice big enough to fill up all our empty rooms. She was armed once again with the latest Chinese cleaning technology, and I woke up this morning to a squeaky-clean house and her bright voice singing the praises of her handiwork. Time didn’t erase any of the standard Chinese over-hospitality either. We’re not even a day in and my family is already stuffing food down the throats of our guests as they refuse and try to gift us with expensive trinkets; I feel like a bug caught between vicious crossfire as my aunt and my mother duke it out.


But my cousin and I both bear much evidence of growth. He’s a lot taller, his hair is cut shorter, he lost all of his baby fat, and he laughs mostly with his eyes now. If you pointed him out on the streets, I wouldn’t think that he was the same kid from five years ago: a fumbling, wild, adorable boy. I’m different, too. I gained a few inches, a healthy fear of the SAT, and a newfound respect for silent observation.


I’m interested to see how the rest of my summer plays out. While both of us are still the same person, I can’t help but see different kids pockmarked by the passage of time. But there’s room for great opportunity in the next few weeks: opportunities to learn about cultural differences, occasions to laugh over shared fun, and a chance to gain a lifelong friend.

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