Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Cousin Baraka

My Handsome Cousin Baraka
Recently I got to meet my cousin Baraka for the first time.  Actually, he's my first cousin once removed - he's my first Cousin George's youngest boy.  

I should perhaps explain that my dad came from a family of 10 children.  I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 first cousins, just on his side of the family.  I have cousins I have never met, such as Baraka's dad, George, who currently lives in Hawaii.  George is the principal of a Christian school there.

I had heard that Baraka was living here in the area attending Long Beach State.  I guess I was a little shy about getting around to meeting this fellow.  It took some chatting on Facebook with him and his sister Charlotte for me to feel comfortable enough to finally arrange a meeting.

We finally hooked up at the Olive Garden restaurant in Downey, California, one evening, along with my Cousin Mary (George's sister, Baraka's Aunt) and Mary's delightful daughter Leah.

My Cousin Mary and her daughter Leah
I had met Mary once, many years ago, at a family reunion in Durango, Colorado.  My dad's side of the family calls Durango home base.

It was so good to see her again and get to meet her lovely daughter Leah.  I was really impressed with Leah. She is a twelve and a half and really great kid.

It was such fun meeting these relatives!  They're the closest to me, geographically speaking, of any family I have.  But I was nervous meeting them.  I mean, we're family, so even if they don't like me, they're stuck with me, right? Ha!

I'm sure Baraka thought I was a lunatic with a camera
Baraka's mom hails from Kenya, and from a place not far from where President Obama's family comes from.  He said he gets comments that he looks like President Obama all the time.  Truth be told, I thought he did look a bit like President Obama with a bit of my cousin Alan thrown in.  He also sounds very much like my brother's boys.

I found that I felt instantly comfortable with him.  Like my genes said, "Whoa!  Family!"

I discovered that Baraka, who is 25, is majoring in Mechanical Engineering.  He is also very nice.
Baraka (on the far right) with his siblings, Charlotte and Amani
I arrived with photos of our patriarchal greats - Baraka's great-grandparents, 2nd great grandparents and 3rd great grandparents, and a little chart so he could tell how they/we were connected.  It was strange telling this young man, who was part Kenyan and a Lutheran, about his Norwegian Mormon ancestors.  It was probably weird for him as well.

Isn't family great?

Below you'll see the photos of  my paternal grandparents, who are also Baraka and Amani's great-grandparents, (and their half-sister Charlotte's adopted great-grands):

Pearl Ethel Stivers Evensen
Through Pearl Stivers, we are related to folks who fought in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.  Her earliest American ancestors first arrived in America in the 1620s.  We're "Heinz 57" Americana through and through by virtue of Grandmother Pearl.  (All the rest are purely Scandinavian!)

Pearl died the year before I was born, so I never got a chance to meet her in this life.

Axel Hermand Evensen
Through Axel, we are related to Norwegian and Danish Mormon immigrants.

I think that makes us about as American as a family can get!

When I think about our very international family it makes me very happy.  I think we are so very lucky. I hope now that the ice has been broken that I'll get to see more of my California branch of the family.

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