Creative Threads and Magical Thinking

Acrylic monotype on paper, 2020 by Stephanie Khattak.

Lately, I have been thinking of embroidery. And by extension, I have been thinking about my Auntie. She died late April 2020, but not of Covid. A distinction that didn’t matter once she was moved into a skilled nursing center for what we thought would be a few weeks of care and then home, or worst case, private hospice. When she went in, she was well enough to ask for a specific red jacket to be brought to her, already planning her outfit for her release.

For about a month her daughter and my mother, her niece tried their best to communicate through speakerphone, FaceTime, message relays from the nurses (for as long as she could understand them) and finally, the last goodbye. My cousin, my mother and I stood in a nursing home parking lot in Tyler and yelled into a stranger’s iPhone as Auntie slept fitfully, inside and many floors up and maybe heard us but who knows, really.

She was my second casualty of the last two years and the first involving a person. This kicked off a parade of horrors that marched on to include the deaths of her husband “Pete-o”; a cousin younger than me and both of his grandparents – another great-aunt and uncle of mine, and two other cousins – siblings. Within one week, I lost two classmates – one who I had adored since 1981 and another that I had happily tolerated for just as long. A married couple from the family next door warranted a double funeral, closing off yet another chapter of our multi-generational story. My friend from college died that February, and in October my ex was killed in an accident while experiencing a mental health crisis. Loss upon loss.

And of course, the Big Bad gas station looms large across from my parents’ house. The Final Boss that will send my family scrambling back to Hoot Owl Holler where we came from, four generations and nearly 100 years ago.

I know mine is just one story in many similar ones these days. I really don’t know where any of us go from here. For me, and for a lot of people I imagine, there is a strong sense that things will never feel normal again. And how can they, with such loss? And how could we even want them to?

Thinking of Auntie, and thinking of embroidery, I keep coming back to stitches and sewing. Perhaps it is my mind, as it often does, working things out creatively when it is hard to communicate in other ways. Piecing it back together, trying to bring out the beauty.


Auntie was the family seamstress, making most of my clothes for most of my life. All of my prettiest dresses came from her: the red strapless prom dress with a full petticoat skirt and bow on the bodice, so glamorous and timeless that it was altered to fit my very short best friend a year later and looked equally amazing. A black, off-the-shoulder floral Gunne Sax-inspired dress for the 1990 National Future Homemaker’s of America (FHA) convention in Washington DC, complete with hand-placed clear sequins over every pink and red rose petal and green leaf. That trip was my first time on an airplane, so of course I had to have two new wrap skirts made to wear on the flights – a navy one with a bright, whimsical crayon print, one in tropical pastels.

In researching my family history, I learned that Auntie’s auntie was a pattern maker, and her great-grandmother did professional needlework and embroidery for the community in the early 1900s. I didn’t inherit any of that. I did poorly in my Home Economics sewing unit, somehow stitching a needle into the pillow I was making. (My FHA success came through its public speaking components.) Once, I thought I’d sew a sundress for my little cousin and was feeling pretty good until my mother walked by, sighed and rolled her eyes. “Make something she can wear,” she said.

But still, I think about stitches, piecing together, making something plain just plain prettier. As with my prints, never obscuring or transforming, always honoring and enhancing. So, stitch by stitch, something new begins.

Work in progress, acrylic and embroidery on photo-printed canvas. Stephanie Khattak 2022.

When Auntie and Pete-o died, it fell to my mom and my cousin to clean out their house. There isn’t much in there that I really wanted. An oil portrait of my mother and a matching one of my cousin, if she or her child don’t want it. A framed 1993 Youth Fair needlepoint project depicting the million little things that make up a sewing room: thread, a sewing machine, scissors, spinning wheels…it was so big and complicated that I pulled tearful all-nighters to complete, sometimes working on one corner while my friend Jake worked on the other. It lost to a scene of a teddy bear eating an apple. A teddy bear! But that’s fine because Auntie liked it, and I liked it, and now I want it back.

But, what I really want is her sewing kit, a lidded basket in the shape of a beige house edged in blue and green. It sat by her machine for as long as I can remember, there with everything she’d need for each stitch and sequin, snip, button and flourish. There was never one thing out of place in that house, and yet that sewing kit is nowhere to be found. My other family members aren’t interested in it, and if they were they would just tell me. It’s simply not there.

Maybe it will turn up, but if not, that’s okay. I have a theory, or maybe some magical thinking. Perhaps she came back for it, took it with her to wherever she went. Her greatest joy was in her sewing, the satisfaction that can come from fixing a stitch, making something pretty, making something right.

There is a lot that is wrong right now. Who’s to say that the other side is so cut off from us that they can’t feel it? Maybe they feel helpless, too. So many gone, in such short time. To them they’ve arrived en masse somewhere entirely new with lingering, fuzzy memories of voices through smartphone speakers, unrecognizable shapes in hazmat suits, blinding lights. Who’s to say that they too, wouldn’t like to return to the comforts of old joys, to attempt to set something right, perhaps stitch by stitch. Who’s to say they can’t?

“Mimi and Auntie, 1940s” digital collage 2021. Auntie and her sister, my grandmother. By Stephanie Khattak.

East Texas Research Trip

Halloween tree at Kurth Memorial Library, Lufkin, Texas.

I spent the past weekend in and around Lufkin, conducting research and visiting family. I added an extra day to my usual weekend visits to fit everything in, and I still didn’t fit everything in!

Due to the size and complexity of the Pine Curtain Project, I have divided it up into a multi-year roadmap and what I hope are small, manageable chunks. The last time I visited for this work, I focused on some cemetery tours and family oral history. For this trip, I chose two local history centers and narrowed down my research to Old Homer History and the beginnings of a Huntington, Texas history that I am pursuing.

Researching takes a long time, longer than expected and longer than people realize. When I look through archives or do field interviews, I usually have one or two main points I want to explore, but I also have to leave time and “brainspace” for other ideas and topics that I encounter along the way, to either fit them into the narrative or file them away for later. Especially when I am interviewing or consulting someone. This is why you may notice that sometimes my art production goes dark for a few weeks – it is just hard to do everything at once. The past few weeks have been devoted to launching the podcast and preparing for this trip.


Because the Ora McMullen Genealogy Room hours aren’t compatible with my non-resident schedule, the Kurth Memorial Library team was kind enough to pull stacks of requested materials and set me up in a study room on Friday. I stayed for nearly three hours and only made it halfway through. I spent my time going through three large file folders: One on the historic role of the Masonic Lodge in Homer; one on general Homer history; and one on Huntington, Texas around the 1930s-40s. I have 347 photos from my trip, and most of them are of documents found in these folders, if that tells you anything.

Workspace view and archival documents, Kurth Memorial Library, Lufkin.

Saturday morning, I woke up early and drove out to Huntington, to spend some time talking to Darrell Bryan of the Huntington Genealogical & Historical Society. Darrell is a longtime Homer, Huntington and East Texas historian whose work focuses on armed conflicts, cattle rustling, racism and land disputes. He is also a friend of my father’s, and very nice.

Darrell gave me a tour of the historical society building in Huntington’s Centennial Park, and then spent most of the morning sharing his research finds and opinions; and helping me understand the bigger picture around the incidents I am learning about. I came away with a better idea of the “whys” around the “what happened,” and also new, bigger mysteries to contemplate.

View of Heritage Park from the Huntington Genealogical & Historical Society and Centennial Park, Huntington, TX.

Suite at the Courtyard Marriott in Lufkin.

Since most of my work was in Lufkin proper, I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott. I’m a frequent guest there, and this time they upgraded me to a suite! Score! So, I spent the evenings with lots of space to spread out, organize my notes and snack from the giant bag of gummy candy I bought at Target.

When I wasn’t working or in the hotel, I was at my parents’ house catching up with their animals, and that was pretty cool, too. Less cool is the blighted field across the street from them, that used to have horses, goats, tall grass and trees. Soon, the field will be an all-night gas station and truck stop. An infuriating but important lesson that nothing lasts forever.

Poncho!
Sweet NaNa.
Soon, the construction site here to the left will be an Exxon gas station in Homer. To the right is my grandfather’s front yard. Harder to see – a great big hole at the end of the street to catch groundwater and God knows what else that drains from the site.

Research Notes: “Ghost Story, Ghost Town”

Hopefully, you will be or were able to tune in to my 2021 Folklore in the Archives talk, “Ghost Story, Ghost Town,” covering a pivotal moment in Homer, Texas history and one of East Texas’ many ghost stories that has endured through the years. Here are a few supporting resources along with links to relevant archive collections for further independent exploring.

Archival information:
The History Center, Diboll, Texas
The Ruth Grant Homer History Collection, The History Center, Diboll, Texas
Portal to Texas History, The Banner, Homer, Texas


Photos:

Sarah Scroggins (right) with her parents and children in Old Homer, 1900. Shortly after Robert Scroggins was murdered.
Robert and Sarah Scroggins (seated) with their children and Sarah’s mother.

Digitized Newspapers:

Witness Testimony: Angelina County Press, May 4, 1900 via The History Center

Addendum:

This information appears in episodes 1-4 of Pine Curtain Confidential Season 1, an expansion and continuation of this story.

Prohibition and Temperance in Texas, Texas State Historical Association

“In the nineteenth century a movement against alcoholic beverages arose when some Americans, appalled by the social damage and individual wreckage that alcohol consumption too often seemed to cause, sought to persuade citizens to refrain from drinking liquor. This “temperance” movement enjoyed considerable success and continued parallel with the prohibition movement.”

Prohibition Party (PRO), Wikipedia

The Big Thicket of Southeast Texas, TexasHistory.Com

“These were pioneers that were looking for land of their own and looking for privacy. They were individuals that didn’t come to join the chamber of commerce. They were people who lived off the land and whatever they crops they could raise and whatever game they could hunt.” – Dr. Francis E. Abernethy

Contact Information:

Please get in touch if you have questions or comments, or if you would like for me to speak to your group on this or related topics. If you are interested in other topics like this, I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter to learn when my podcast launches later in September.

All archival images, digitized newspapers, etc. are used courtesy of their holding institutions. Please do not copy or publish my presentation, slides or research notes pages without permission. This content is is free to share on social media with credit to Stephanie Khattak, Pine Curtain Project and a link back to this Website or the appropriate social media platform.

Stephanie Khattak, info@khattakstudios.com

Family Plots

Bluebonnet Field in the Huntington Cemetery, Huntington, Texas.

While most of my immediate family have been laid to rest in one cemetery, my home community has many, many others, which hold not only my long-ago ancestors but also those of my friends and neighbors. Growing up, cemeteries were a part of life and close to home. A place to go and feel closer to past loved ones, to tend to their grave sites and spend a peaceful moment. There was nothing scary about cemeteries, and aside from the occasional spook-tacular fall hayride, they weren’t particularly amusing, either. They were just there. They were places of reverence, peace and community touchstones. I’m not even one for zombies or skeleton imagery. Even at Halloween, I prefer to decorate with things like black cats or silly monsters. There are a few reasons for this, but it’s mostly from being a realist. Because no one knows what our souls are capable of, but our bodies are where they are going to be. Once they’re interred, they’ll never sit on a bench, chase a teenager or hug a pumpkin again. (Sad, but true!)

Texas has many historic cemeteries, defined as “any cemetery 50 years or older that landmarks the presence of a family or community.” In my family story, I can think of at least eight, and I am sure there are more. The largest and most modern one is still in use, but we still visit and maintain the ones in the outlying areas, too. In many cases, the cemeteries are all that’s left of those communities. Some are named after the places they commemorate (such as Homer, Huntington, Rocky Hill) and some are named for families (Renfro, Durham.) The Texas Historical Commission is a great resource for learning more about and preserving these places in the state, and Saving Places from the National Trust for Historic Preservation has valuable information, too.

And there’s nothing morbid about researching, studying, or visiting them. These cemeteries and their place in my community have been very helpful in my creative genealogy projects and interest in Texas history.

Before I committed to an ancestry.com membership, I did a lot of research through Find a Grave, an online ancestry records search tool that is free and quite useful for genealogists, historians and family history search. Not only does it deliver results for names and locations of current and historic graves, it also publishes obituaries, along with names that the original record might be linked to. Here’s my grandmother’s record as an example. Lots of info, although she’d be incensed that a photo linked to her good name had an overturned plant in it. Who knows when this photo was taken or who the photographer is, but I feel like I should drive home immediately and check to make sure that plant has been fixed.

I also look at burial records in the ancestry.com portal. Here’s a page with best practices for finding death, burial and cemetery records in its database. Digital Vital Records, in the National Archives, are also helpful.

But, as with everything else, the best sources of information have been my family. As I mentioned before, I have been so fortunate to have had long-lived relatives, and few older folks who are living still. On my last trip home, I went to three East Texas cemeteries, two with my grandfather who happily pointed out his (and I suppose, my own) family members: grandparents; great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, and his infant brother who I had not known about before now. I visited the resting place of my great-uncle, veteran Sherman McBryde, saw his honor plaque, and learned that while he never married, he did have a sweetheart in Boston. That he was a kind and gentle person who my grandfather really loved. Some of these things I could learn by researching or reading, but for the best parts, as they say, you just have to be there. Or as close to being there as you can when you’re getting know family who lived generations before.

WWII Veteran’s Grave, Huntington Cemetery, Huntington, Texas.

This “cemetery tour” covered my maternal grandfather’s side of the family. My dad has been making phone calls and setting up meetings for me and other family historians, and next time I’ll visit two cemeteries that hold his paternal ancestors. Later in the fall, when it is not boiling hot (just regular Texas hot), I’ll continue on to Renfro Prairie, Rocky Hill, and Mount Hope, if I can find it. Perhaps I’ll be able to circle back to the tiny and old McBryde Cemetery, but that will be more difficult because it’s on private property now.

And there’s another, not insignificant reason for my Texas cemetery tour. As I have spent the better part of last year looking through, learning about, and making art from these people’s lives, photos and personal documents, I realize that I owe them a great debt.

In the literal sense, I owe them my life, because who are we of, if not of our family? All the nice people and mean people, hard-workers and hucksters. The multitudes that they contain. Those who we find commonalities in interests, temperaments and hobbies and those who make us say “I would never!” Ancestors who gave us our pretty eyes or our hard-to-comb hair. Family who only our oldest relatives can remember and even those who are now names in stories, or even a database.

Jonesville Cemetery, Huntington, Texas.

More personally, I owe them thanks for the gifts that the Pine Curtain Project has given to me. Through it, even those who are long gone are still helping their granddaughter, great-granddaughter, great-great-granddaughter, so on and so forth. They still have so much to share. It’s like a complicated group project with some really remote contributors who you can never align time zones with. But it works.

So, when I walk through a historic East Texas cemetery, I say “Thank You” to Beatrice, who loved me before I could really know her. To Charlie aka Grandy who lived long enough for his youngest great-grandaughters to fistfight at his feet and imperil his oxygen tank. To Paul aka Paw who I am more like than I realized in his lifetime. To Pete and Ernestine, for who, though they recently left after long and beloved lives, there are still not enough Thank Yous. I say “they never forgot you” to the infant who lived for a day in 1927; and “Well, you’ve certainly caused a stir” to the alleged backwoods Lothario from the 1800s. “I think I understand” to my great-great-uncle in the late 1930s whose story I am eager to tell when the time is right.

I say “none of you people ever threw anything away, and I have come from your future to vindicate you for that.”

Fielder’s Cemetery, Homer, Texas.

How do you connect with a loved one? Go where they are, wherever they are. Above ground or below it. Maybe their only known place is in your heart. That’s okay, too. But go there and say “Thanks.” Say “I love you.” Say “I’m here.”

On an East Texas Research Mission

As soon as my extended family, husband and I were vaccinated and past the CDC recommended waiting period, we said goodbye to the cats and headed to East Texas for the weekend. The Pine Curtain Project didn’t start in quarantine, but definitely gained speed, depth and focus over the past year when I had more time (for better or worse.) So, it was exciting to finally get to go home, not only to hear stories directly from surviving elders, but also to collect more research items and photographs, and to walk around outside around community landmarks before it gets too hot to do so.

Researching online is great and very productive, but there is so much value in being able to learn things first hand. Our large and busy community has dwindled over the years as older people pass away and ancestral land changes over to new community members or is sold to the new businesses that have been encroaching over the past few years. (A new twist on an age-old song: “They paved the horse pasture, put up a port-o-pot lot.”)

I’m lucky to still have two surviving grandparents: one on each side of my family. My grandfather is 86, and my grandmother is 91. They live within a mile or so of each other and my parents, so a lot of their stories overlap. They’re at various levels of mobility, but they are both very interested in family and community history in their own way. So, I was able to spend an hour or so with my grandmother going over her stash of collected family stories, notes and photos, then an afternoon riding around with my grandfather and walking around family cemeteries.

Both outings filled in some blanks for me, and helped me visualize the places I learn about. In many cases, I was able to add names, context, and detail to the stories I have heard over the years.


Over the weekend, a few people asked why I was interested in this history: why now, and what were my plans for it? Those are valid questions. I have always loved my family and community, but I couldn’t wait to leave it when I was 18, and like most young adults, I didn’t always fully appreciate it. I knew from my fashion magazines that big cities had the good shopping and at the time, Lufkin was no place for someone who desired exotic items like boot cut pants. (I can still hear my confused mother asking, “…like Poppa’s Wranglers?” No mom. Like Poppa’s Wrangler’s but way more expensive. Gah.)

Anyway, like any other place, it contains strengths and challenges, and it took a little while for those to balance out for me. But, better late than never, right? And, a real personal benefit of the project is that it has been a great opportunity to form stronger relationships with my family. We may not agree on everything, but we can all agree that some late-great ancestor sounded “crazier’n an outhouse rat,” haha.

I don’t have kids and at nearly 45, that ship has sailed. I am an only child, as well. In many ways, I see this project as a way for me to not only better understand some of the family, community and cultural dynamics that make me who I am, but also to leave a record so that it doesn’t disappear with me.


As I have mentioned before, the Pine Curtain Project is loosely themed around the idea of Ghost Towns and Ghost Stories: what happens in a place and what remains, and to the degree that anyone can know – why.

I have been gathering information over the past few months, and have made decent progress on documentation around the larger ideas on my roadmap for this year.

Images, names and dates are starting to turn into timelines and rough biographies. Over time, these will evolve into narratives. Maybe the project will remain a series of smaller stories, or merge into one big one; I don’t know the answer to that yet, or what form any of it might take beyond my visual art and this blog.


Anyway, I have a new stack of things to parse through this week, and plan to post more art and Curated Histories starting next week. In the meantime, enjoy these images that show just a few of the nearly pristine vintage treasures my cousin found cleaning out her late parents’ house this weekend. I didn’t come home with much of it, but the Barbie trunks are going to hold art supplies now. I REALLY want that Atari but their grandchild gets first refusal. As is appropriate for such a prized heirloom.

The Million & Loving box is an heirloom in itself. Million & Loving was a little neighborhood store, and back in the day had the best candy and served BBQ sandwiches from the back. It went through a few iterations, was sold to a corporation and was just razed to make room for an Exxon/fast food hybrid in Homer, conveniently located at the edge of my grandfather’s front yard.

Thoughts on the “Deep Nostalgia” App

As an artist, writer and researcher who works with historic and family photos, I have seen a lot of buzz around the MyHeritage “Deep Nostalgia” app. I had a strong aversion to it upon first reaction, but tried it out “just once” before passing judgment.

And…I am still uneasy with it. It is not for me. I uploaded a random photo to animate, and I won’t post the results here because honestly while the technology was great, I found the result to be creepy.

How to make creative projects around historical photos is something that I think about a lot; not just in terms of “what can I do that’s cool?” but also, “how can I do something cool that also honors the subject?” To me, it is a fine line to enhance what is in the photo and bring out the natural beauty and interest of a person or scene without editorializing too much or adding meaning or context that is wildly different. Especially when the subject is a private citizen vs. a public figure. If I haven’t failed at this already, I’m sure I will eventually. But, I do try. Also, the “Deep Nostalgia” gestures are pretty controlled, but where does it stop? Will the next “Deep Nostalgia” app include the ability to make someone’s beloved Nana do silly dances, make rude gestures or say things they would never say? Who knows?! And what about the artists and photographers whose work is changed by the app without their input or consent?

I’m sure the “Deep Nostalgia” functionality was built with the best of intentions and is in some ways even healing for those who are grieving or seeking connection to the past. But it is important to be careful and remember that a photograph isn’t a person, and even the best-quality animation of a photograph won’t give you that connection. What you seek lives in your heart, in memories, in the stories that are passed down from other family or community members. In A Grief Observed, CS Lewis cautions against “substitut(ing) for the real woman a mere doll.” I agree and feel that is a real emotional risk with technology like this.

I do wonder what innovations like these will mean for future historical projects and even estate planning, though. As an artist and writer, I’ll be designating someone to help make sure that if my work lives beyond me, that it is does so in a way that is in line with my values and wishes. I imagine that holograms, AI and other emerging tech will add another layer to that for more people who aren’t necessarily creative professionals, as more of our images and words are more likely to resurface over time.

This opinion was written from a creator’s point of view, but there are also data and privacy issues to consider, which I encourage you to research and draw your own conclusions on before using the app.

The app and buzz around it has me thinking about different and more authentic/ethical ways to use design or technological innovation for creative ancestry and history projects. I’ll think on this and share some options here or in next month’s newsletter. (Or both!)

Art,Work and Cats on a Thursday

Desktop scene.

I’m always interested in how creative people structure their time, so I thought I’d share a little bit about how I work. Especially since what so many people see is just the finished product, and that is just the tip of the iceberg!

My artwork takes a long time to do. Not as long as, say, a photorealistic oil portrait, but it is very process heavy and needs a lot of protected time, as it is not work that I can start, stop and come back to. If the acrylic dries on the plate, it is unusable for my process, and if I try to rush through and end up with an off-center or flawed print, it’s back to the proverbial drawing board, or literal printing plate, to start over again.

So, printing the art itself is something I usually batch over one or two dedicated days of the week in my studio and in that time I can print roughly four pieces depending on the size and level of detail. (It also helps with cat control, as the kittens still aren’t allowed in there and I don’t like having to shut them out more than necessary. One, it makes me feel bad and two, they bang on the walls and rattle the door. I think the house panther is about three “aha” moments from unlatching the doorknob.)

An intelligent stinker.

When I’m not actively printing or hand-embellishing completed prints – either for my own work or commissions from others, I do a LOT of research. I would say that a typical week is 50 percent creating the art, 40 percent research, and ten percent admin/marketing/operations which includes things like invoicing, cleaning my work space, looking for and responding to promotional opportunities, updating digital platforms and responding to commission requests (not all of these tasks need to be done each week, thankfully.)

My days are structured like any other workday, usually getting started around 9-10 am and finishing around 6 pm for family and TV time with the kittens.

Bonnie loves TV. Here she is learning about culinary travel to Costa Rica.

I sometimes work over the weekends, and I’m always reading on my off-hours, and some of that is research time as well. On weekends I try to recharge and work around the house or go see shows by other artists for inspiration. But during the pandemic I have been mostly at home.

Because my work centers on the Pine Curtain Project, I am always on the hunt for compelling vintage images with compelling stories, ideally that contribute not only to my own family history, stories and memories, but also to the larger cultural history of East Texas. As I wrote in a previous post, I’m focusing on a few main topics this year, which is not to say that other images and themes aren’t included as well. But, I am finding so much information just on these topics, that I am very busy researching, reading, cataloging and analyzing information.

Combining my art so closely with writing and research complicates things in some ways, but in most ways, I feel that it leads to a more rewarding experience for me as the artist, and hopefully for the viewer as well. As a person who likes a little more structure in the day, I feel that this project lends itself well to providing that structure while still leaving plenty of room for the flexibility needed for the creative process to do its thing.

Researching East Texas History

My research assistant, Bluebonnet, hard at work.

This week, I discovered a few new online resources to help my research:

The JStor academic database, which has a free tier during the pandemic

The SFASU East Texas Research Center online libraries

The Texas Historical Commission library

AND, yesterday, I received my copy of “They Left No Monuments,” a volume of East Texas human interest stories by the late historian Bob Bowman.

I’m just scratching the surface of these resources, but I have already learned so much! It’s really exciting to read this information, find archival images, and think about how it might fit into writing, art or both.

I’ve settled into a routine where I work and write in my studio most afternoons, and in the evenings I dig around online and read. Routine and purpose have been things I really miss about pre-COVID times when my business was stronger. If you are struggling, too, I urge you to just pick something fun to do and dive in. If you have a fuzzy assistant or two to keep things lively, even better.

Besties

“Besties, 1980” by Stephanie Khattak. Embellished acrylic monotype.

In rural East Texas, your first best friends are your cousins and your neighbors. And often, your cousin IS your neighbor! In my case, my cousin spent lots of time visiting my grandmother, who lived just one stop sign and few houses away. So, almost a neighbor.⁠

I’m an only child, and people often ask “Weren’t you lonely growing up?” ⁠

Because of my cousin and my neighbor, I really can’t relate to that question. How could I be lonely when one bestie lived at the far end of my driveway and the other was conveniently at all family functions? Plus, they’re older than me by a few years, so I don’t know what it’s like not to have friends like them.

An upside to being related to and living next door to your best friends is that they’re stuck with you for life. Lucky them! And lucky, lucky me.