Here is a photo of me with my first cousin, Lee Leatherwood, when we were little. Lee’s birthday is today and mine is six days from today on the 21st. He and I grew up (for our first five years) only a few houses from each other and, after that, only a few blocks from each other. We have known each other all of our lives and were clearly even in utero at exactly the same time.
Lee is blonde and light-skinned; I’m brunette and dark-skinned. He’s tall; I’m short. He was skinny growing up and, as you can see from the photo, I was more “well-rounded.” He has green eyes, I have brown. He’s more relaxed about life; I’m a bit more intense. (He, no doubt, is raising an eyebrow right now and saying, “A bit?”
Lee and I went to the same schools in our little Texas town of Bonham from kindergarten through 12th grade. We both even attended the University of Texas in Austin together during our freshman year. After that, I moved out of state for three years, then to Italy for one, before returning to North Texas and later moving to California. Lee remained in Austin after he graduated from UT and has been there ever since. Still, we’ve been in touch more than out of touch over all those years and have been in very close contact over the past twenty years.
Though Lee and I look dramatically different on the outside, we are remarkably similar on the inside. We both are Democrats with strong opinions on politics, love all kinds of music, and have an ardent love for literature and writing. We also have a strong sense of family and share a devotion to home and hearth. Lee has helped me become a better cook than I once was since he has attained quite a high level of culinary skill. My family owes him a debt of gratitude for guiding me beyond spaghetti with tomato sauce and chalupas for our dinner meals.
I am grateful to have someone in my life I’ve known as I’ve known Lee. Our shared history bonds us and our shared memories provide a complex connection that goes far beyond words. I can look at Lee and see my father in his face; I can look at him and also see my brother Jim’s green eyes. He often sounds remarkably like my brother George when he laughs, and when he plays the guitar, he reminds me both of brother George and my little brother Sam. There’s great comfort in that.
Thank you, Lee, for being my friend over all these years. I appreciate your wicked sense of humor, excellent taste in music and books, and abiding loyalty to our family.
I wish you many years of good health and happiness.
Here’s to you and also to our shared experience together.