My Cousin Kelly.

I don’t think I’ve told you guys anything about my cousin Kelly, have I?  Truth be told, for the first twenty years or so of my life I really didn’t know her that well.  Of course, I was always aware of her and I’d spent time with her on occasion (most famously when I was “fo’ years old”), but she’s one of my “California relatives,” the motley crew of family on Mrs. Johnny Rocket’s side of things, all residing on the other side of the country from where I grew up in Florida, and, as a result, for the better part of my formative years she was known to me more as a series of exciting and aspirational labels (adventurer, businesswoman, free spirit, nomad, go-getter) than as an actual concrete being.  California and her inhabitants, including this cousin of mine, were a world away, it seemed.  As far as Europe, by air.  They were known to eat sushi, these exotic blood relations, and take showers outdoors and shop almost exclusively in thrift stores.  As I said, a world away.

But not so far away these days.  Starting just north of San Diego (in Cardiff-By-the-Sea, where I am now), I’m excited to spend October with my family of the West: Grandma Marian (special shout-out; she’s 96!), Aunt Kathy, Uncle Bill, Cousin Kelly and her husband Tim, Cousin Kirsten and her husband Michael and their two kids, Lauren and Lawson.  Lovely, lovely people, each and every one.  We’re talking serious quality humans here, dedicated readers.  I can’t wait to introduce you to them in the days and weeks ahead.

We’ll start with Kelly, here in Cardiff-By-the-Sea:

She’s a sales woman, through and through.  A real sweet talker.  Kelly could sell a bucket of sand to a thirsty man in the desert.  But she doesn’t use that power for evil, no way.

Kelly loves the sight of the ocean so much that she’ll drive an extra three blocks in rush hour San Diego traffic just to catch a glimpse.  Even though she lives within spitting distance of the wide open sea and sees it at least twice a day on a slow day.  She delights in it like a kid who grew up landlocked.  I love that about her.

She can surf.  Bad. Ass.

She has a huge heart.  If you’re lucky enough to claim a space in this outsized ticker of hers, you’re there for life.  She loves fiercely and loyally and for the long haul.

She’s my “California relative” that showers outdoors.  In general, she’s pretty comfortable being naked in front of her houseguests.  Yes, I speak from experience.

She’s a connector.  She wants everyone to know everyone.  Malcolm Gladwell could write an entire chapter about her and her force-of-nature connectivity.  When she introduces me to someone new she almost always tells the story of when we first met when I was four-years old and she and Kirsten visited Florida.  I greeted them with “Hi, ya’ll, I’m Becka and I’m fo’.”  Kelly loves to share that with people.

Like me, she has really excellent skin (you guys know about my perfect skin, yes?).  We discussed it the other day and have decided we have Grandma Marian to thank.

She once tried to teach me how to surf.  Not so bad ass (me, not her; Kelly’s always bad ass).

She has memories of my mom and dad and their early California days that I envy, but that I love to hear her talk about.  She shared a few precious years with my parents’ first born son who died young and tragically.  Robin to his Batman.  Stuff like that.

When she talks about you, when she mentions you to others in an introduction or even when you’re not around, she uses that gift for sales I mentioned above.  She says things about you that make you blush, but that also make you feel amazing.  She sells her friends and loved ones (as her friend Deb put it the other day) in such a genuine and authentic and enthusiastic way that you positively glow.  She cheers you on and champions you and makes you believe the hype.  It’s awesome.  And it’s so Kelly.

All of this really makes you guys want to meet her, right?  Well, get your rears to Cardiff-By-the-Sea.  She’s just about the most welcoming hostess you could hope to have (of course, the nudity is a plus or minus depending on your proclivities) and I’ve found it hard to commit to a departure date because I’m so at home here in her charming house on this tree-lined street perched on a hill above the mighty Pacific.  Did I mention she has a dog named Blue?  I’m mad for him.

And, as the days unfold, I find that her infectious Kellyness is rubbing off on me, steering me in some delightful ways.  Like Kelly, I’ve more than once driven blocks out of my way to glimpse the ocean this week.  Like Kelly, I’ve been overtaken by a burning desire to cheer on the people in my life from this gorgeous California sideline, to make sure they know how one-of-a-kind they are.  And, like Kelly, I’m conjuring up more and more avenues for connecting the people I admire, near and far, so that everyone knows everyone (NYC cocktail party invites coming soon).  She’s a good influence on me, my cousin.

Tomorrow?  Tomorrow I just may take a shower outdoors.  Naked.

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