Late September is always an exciting time -- College Football season is upon us, the weather is getting crisp, it's shrimp baiting season, inshore fishing is still good and our anniversary rolls around. It's hands down my favorite time of the year! And rather than shmooze on about love and marriage and how happy Scottery makes me, I'd rather tell him that, and instead entertain you with a story of how truly small South Carolina can be...and the time I accidentally married my cousin. Or more accurately, The Time I Accidentally Found Out I Was Engaged To My Cousin And Then Married Him Anyway. Laugh all you like, this story is 100% true.
In trying to condense this, a quick background: Scottery and I dated for years before he popped the question, and our story before that weaves in and out throughout life, as we grew up half a mile away from each other as the crow flies. There are stories of our moms talking at the grocery store all the time, with Scottery as a toddler and me as a baby in the cart. Even though we went to all the same schools and knew of each other, we never actually knew each other (he's a bit older) before college. So after almost 5 years together, we had had plenty of time to further get to know our families, and our families' families...and in my case, my families' families' families.
It was about 2 months before our wedding that I dragged Scottery along to a family reunion for one side of my family tree. Only boosting the stereotype that is the subject of this story, the reunion was in a trailer park. In Myrtle Beach. So we show up extra early with my parents and grandmother because Grandmamma wanted to set up all her family picture albums on a table so people could look at them and educate themselves on our family lineage, and these books help trace it back hundreds of years. Scottery was bored, so as people are trickling into the small venue, he flips open one of the family albums. And not 30 seconds later, he grabs my arm, whirls me around, thumps his finger down onto an 8x10 photo and says "Who is this?"
And I look at the photo. I vaguely recognized it, but I didn't know who he was. So I simply answer, "I don't know -- some guy I'm related to." Then then very nervously, Scottery asks if I remember the story his family used to tell about how his mom's grandfather had been injured in a war and received the Medal of Honor after having his throat cut by pirates in a cave. And I said yes, of course I remember that story. And with eyes as big as saucers, Scottery pointed back at the picture and said "That's him! That's Grandpa! That's the exact picture that was in the dining room at my grandparents' house!" There was no mistaking it -- the name was right there. It was true.
The hours ticked by like molasses in the wintertime, and while I was tickled about the whole situation (because really, the idea discovering you're engaged to your cousin right before your wedding is pretty funny), Scottery was having some kind of mental breakdown. 24 feet of good southern-church-lady food and a foot-high coconut cake, and Scottery couldn't eat a bite. He was sick about it. I stopped to talk to a relative and then looked for him again, only to find him pacing in the middle of the main road through the trailer park. Several different times. The problem was we didn't know how we were related, just his question of "What is my great grandfather doing in your family book??"
At long last and after some awkward phone calls to Scottery's aunts about where exactly the tree may have forked, we rode back home with the plan to pick up a family history book his aunt had, which was actually written by the man in the picture himself, and then bring it back to my grandmother's house to cross-reference it with her many famiy history books. It was almost too comical when we brought that book to my Grandmother's that evening, and she holds up the very same one, with a dedication on the front page to my grandmother, from Scottery's great grandfather, and asks why we went all the way across town to grab that book when she already had it all along.
Turns out we are indeed fifth-cousins. Related directly by blood and not by marriage. The last names had changed over the generations as daughters got married and took new last names, and so that is why no one readily understood the connection. In reality it is truly a long way down the line, and chances are there are a lot of people around here with perhaps a closer relation, but who may be none the wiser. Had Scottery not opened up that exact family album, we probably wouldn't ever know. To round out the story, one of my bridesmaids is actually a genetic counselor, who gave us the OK that we probably won't have an eight-legged child when that time comes. And so I married my fifth cousin. You wouldn't be surprised at how many jokes can come along with that -- people were asking if we were going to change it to a pot luck wedding and have everyone bring a covered dish, if our first dance was going to be to "We Are Family"...the list goes on. We like to joke that our family tree has kind of turned into a family wreath. You just can't make this stuff up.