"You're the one I think of when Brad Paisley sings 'She's Everything,'" the new groom sang to his bride, strumming his guitar, watching tears fill her eyes, oblivous to the rest of us crowding around to listen.
"We've come a long way since junior high...you were my first kiss..."
I know the song didn't go exactly like that, but it's all I remember of the words. I just remember thinking, Ah, young love...How sweet!
We were in Abilene for my cousin's daughter's wedding, which was in the same small Catholic church her grandmother and grandfather were married in years ago. It was the shortest wedding I've ever attended - about twenty minutes tops - but still beautiful.
The serenade came later, at the reception in a nearby hotel.
"Now, how are we related? Second cousins or something?" Even after all the years of geneology I've done, this was tough to explain to our kids.
I still get confused at the technical terminology: I just call Sherlyn and her sisters, Muttsy and Mandy, my cousins, although I'm actually first cousins with their mother Carolyn.
So...does that make Sherlyn and me second cousins? Or would we be first-cousins-once-removed? And what are our kids to each other?
Ah, it doesn't matter. We're cousins. Good enough.
Sherlyn's dad was in the Air Force, and they lived everywhere when she was growing up...from Turkey to Indiana to Texas. We constantly wrote letters to each other.
Finally, they settled for good in Merkel, a little Texas town near Abilene. At nineteen, I took a solo road trip out there from Pasadena (Texas, not California.)
I drove up the main street right at sunset. The shops were all closed and there wasn't a person in sight: it looked like a ghost town. But I found out, especially that night at the Queen-A-Hearts Club, that looks are deceiving.
Even though I hadn't seen Sherlyn, her sisters, and parents in years, it felt like no time had passed, and that's the way it still feels when I see her. Emails and phone calls have replaced the letters, but somehow, despite the physical distance, Sherlyn and I have stayed close all of our lives.
Sherlyn is a tumbleweed of energy. I think she knows everyone within a hundred square miles of Merkel and Abilene - she is the networking queen and worked all her connections for the wedding and reception.
But don't cross her or she'll come out swinging and cussing, her sisters (or at least Mandy) right behind her. In her words, she doesn't put up with "stupid."
Muttsy, me, and Sherlyn, 1968-ish
Me and Sherlyn, forty years later
"Cousins are those childhood playmates who grow up to be forever friends."