It wasn't Christmas.
And it wasn't really a ghost.
But when my cousin showed up on my doorstep last weekend, it was a whirlwind rewind that set me back on my heels a bit as I started to absorb the length and width of my life. It had been twelve years since we had last met up, and while so much around us had changed and moved on, there was this core of a memory that held fast.
I was the city mouse. He was the country mouse. My family would travel out to his family's house for Thanksgiving. On the farm. When Christmas rolled around, they came on into town to spend the day with us. It was a tradition. It was a ritual. It was part of the rhythm of the year. In the summers, they would come up and visit us at the cabin in the mountains. It was the way we bounced through our youth.
Once we had graduated from high school, that pattern began to break down. But those Thanksgivings were a stabilizing force. That was a gathering that turned out to be a proving ground for a number of relationships. If you wanted to see if your girlfriend was going to stick around, bring her out to the farm and have her do a few laps on the car hood towed by tractor with a chain, slinging us around the snowy patches of bare fields. And then there was the witty banter around the table during dinner. Keep up or get left behind.
And now here he was. It took a few minutes to navigate the decade that had passed since we had last connected. Before long, we were back on the footing which we had shared before the days that took us to different corners of the country, and for him, different corners of the globe. It would be silly to say it was as if no time had passed. Middle age and its mild ravages made sure for that. We shared meals. We sat down in the living room. We talked. When my younger brother came across the bay, we shared more meals and talked more in the living room. Until late in the evening.
This was family. This was a part of my life that I couldn't forget. Or let go.
There was no need to. He is a part of my life.