My cousin Andrea has a heart of gold. It’s no wonder that her little princess, Alyssa turned out the way she did. My cousins and I grew together pretty much as brothers and sisters. There are 9 of us in total, so you can imagine the chaos it must of been for grandma to watch over us everyday after school. The oldest memory I have of Andrea was when we were little kids. Since Nicole was older, she went through the “I’m too cool for school” teenager phase before all of us, so Andrea and I would hang out a lot. Since we pretty much all went to the same Elementary school and lived close by, when school let out the bus driver would drop us all off at my Abuela’s house. As the second eldest, and to help my Abuela, Andrea was always taking care of us. But anytime we misbehaved she would put us in time out in a corner, bathroom, bedroom or closet, depending on where we fit. While we were there she would FORCE us to read chapter books…so at least her punishments were constructive. Of course, since the rest of my cousins (including my brother) were boys, they would just fall asleep in their designated punishment spot and not read anything. I, on the other hand, would not. I have since attributed my love for literature and writing to my cousin Andrea.
Andrea and I went through a lot together, and we have always been very close. So naturally the first time I accepted the Lord, she was there. We started going to church together in 2003 and I remember she would always play along (although sometimes unwillingly) when I would go out of my way to get Ben’s attention. She is such a special person in my heart because of her loving and innocent spirit. Despite her degree in psychology, she always sees the best in people and always wants to help with anything she can. She, along with my other cousin Nicole and my sister Jess, taught me everything I know about being a girl. I would watch them put on makeup, sing to boy band songs, dance to Selena, drive like a maniac…all these invaluable lessons I might have not otherwise learned. They were my big sisters growing up, and I have and will always look up to them. I love you Andrea, and thank you for showing me how to love someone past their imperfections. I know that even if this wedding doesn’t turn out to be perfect, it will be special because you’re there with me.
Ahhhh Nee-cole. There is no other cousin that laughs at my stupid jokes more than my cousin Nicole. There was this one time during thanksgiving that I thought of the genius idea to give everyone “Hello my name is” name tags and spell their name phonetically on it. It was hysterical. Well, at least Nicole and I thought it was. As the oldest of the younger generation, Nicole has always been that “cool” cousin whom I always wanted to hang out with. So much so that whenever I would get mad at Andrea for whatever dumb reason seven year olds get mad (in this particular incident, I was mad at her because she wouldn’t let me jump from the bunk bed onto my grandmother’s water bed. Party pooper) I would yell at her and say things to her like, “you see that’s why Nicole is my favorite cousin cause she’s always nice to me!” Andrea probably doesn’t remember, but looking back, it was pretty funny. I remember when Nicole bought her first car, it was a cherry red gangsta chevy impala. She took crazy Daiana and I on a joy ride (which really was about only a few blocks) and we loved every second of it. Then, of course, Daiana and I proceeded to try to fit our bodies through the sunroof…where we got stuck. She just laughed and was amused at how easily entertained we were. It was a great time.
When Nicole loves, she loves with all of her might. She loves so much that she puts love into everything she does….enter “Nicole’s love salad” which is the greatest creation known to mankind! Ok, fine, I might be exaggerating, but it really is sooooo good! One of my favorite memories of Nicole is by far the most recent one. In January of 2012 all of my cousins decided to save their pennies and go to the big apple together. It truly was one of the best trips of my life. Nicole had just begun her training program for her new job and so she, Luque, and Josh could only come for three days, versus the five days the rest of us were there. I remember when Nicole, Luque and Josh finally arrived it was like the already awesome trip get an extra dose of amazing. My heart was so happy because not only were we all there, but we were in NEW YORK and we were having the time of our lives. Nicole, Andrea, Maria and I shared a room and it was so much fun. Nicole truly made this trip extra awesome and I could not have imagined being there without her. Before Ben and I got engaged she always would make Ben feel like part of the family. She would refer to him as her other little cousin, and I just thought that that was so special. The day we got engaged I instantly knew that I would want her, Jess and Andrea to help me create this very special day I’ve been waiting nine years for. Nic, I know that at times my bossy and controlling demeanor gets the best of me, but you still stick around and put up with it. I can’t imagine having anyone better than you to help Ben and I make this day extra special. You put so much love in all that you do, and so I know that even if the centerpieces catch fire… that day will be spectacular because it’s filled with that special “Nicole” love.
My sister is better than all the sisters in the whole wide world. Well, at least in my opinion she is. Jess, as only her family calls her, taught me how to love people in unconventional ways. When I was in elementary school, because I was in gifted, I used to have a lot of projects. I hated doing projects because I hated coloring, and doing crafts, etc. I wasn’t your typical child. So I would leave these awful projects until the last minute when I would then proceed to beg my dad for help. Being the creative soul that he is, he would always find a cool way to do everything. It was no wonder my sister turned out that way. When the projects were so large that he couldn’t do it on his own, he would ask my sister for help. Of course when we would first slowly approach her, her response was less than amused. She would give me this whole lecture about how irresponsible I was for leaving everything for last minute (all of which was true) and how Dad shouldn’t spoil me by doing my project for me. I would sit there in silent agreement. But despite her complaints, she would do the project and do an exceptional job. That truly amazed me. She didn’t HAVE to do it, as a matter of fact, she probably shouldn’t have done it because then I would never learn, but she did. She was always there for me when I was in a bind. I guess that was one of the first lessons I learned from her — resourcefulness. Not only did she teach me how to be resourceful but she taught me the value of loyalty. My sister was loyal to our family. We could always count on her, and she could always count on us. But the most important lesson my sister taught me came when I was 13 years old.
One cold November night she decided that she wanted to take me to this weird place called youth group. At the time I was still trying to figure out my place in this world and I always felt left out because I didn’t like the things kids my age did. I wanted more out of life. She had the answer, as she always does and that answer completely changed my life. At first she said to me, “You know how you don’t have that many friends except for that weird Argentinean girl you always hang around with?” to which I shyly nodded in agreement. “Well,” she began, ” I think I found people who are more like you and I want to take you this awesome concert that a group of youth is having.” I was immediately interested. My sister brought me to house of faith church with her then boyfriend (now husband) Alex and a little spark in me lit up. I loved this whole youth group business and I wanted more! So being the caring older sister she was, she took me again months later on April 4, 2003. That was the day I met Ben. I remember after we met, I drove home in my sister’s VW Passat, with Andrea sitting in the back. It feels like just yesterday. I sat in her car in amazement of the guy I had just met, so I shared my excitement with her. I remember that she looked me in the face and chuckled. I was confused of course so asked “what?” She said to me, “girl, you don’t have a chance with him he’s the youngest son of the Pastor. You would need to REALLY try to hard for that one.” ……Challenge Accepted.
Who knows why my sister said what she said to me that night in the car, all I know is that I’m so grateful she did. Part of me attributes it to the fact that she knows me so well and knows I love a good challenge. Even today I still think that that was her way of inspiring me to be better. And I will love her eternally for that. Remember when I said that my sister taught me how to love unconventionally? She did. Although we were never really the huggy, kissy, emotional pair of sisters, my sister showed me that she loved me by pushing me to do better, by harassing me when I didn’t, by always secretly believing in me even though she would say otherwise, by making fun of me during the few times we would get emotional, by always sitting and vigilantly waiting for whenever I needed her to rescue me. In a lot of ways my sister sounds a lot like Batman. How many people out there can say that their sister is like Batman? Not many. But I can.