Barbara Kincaid has always looked up to her cousin, Rosalind. When she first arrived in Boston, when Barbara was eight or nine, Rosalind was an exotic presence, a West Coast relative who didn’t seem like anyone Barbara had ever met before. In fact, Rosalind was all anyone in the family could talk about. She was going to college to study computers. Their grandmother spent the better part of an afternoon visit explaining to Barbara and her mother, Evangeline, why women weren’t supposed to be in computer classes.
“She should be studying how to set up her housekeeping and raise her children,” Grandma Padgett said. “It’s not proper for a young woman to educate herself beyond her intelligence.”
Barbara had been hearing talk like this among the family ever since it was announced that Rosalind was headed to Massachusetts to attend MIT. She was the daughter of Barbara’s aunt Abigail, the oldest daughter, who announced upon graduation that she was headed to Seattle to study Journalism while Evangeline was still in grade school. It was the last the family saw of her until she visited many years later, married and with a daughter of her own and Rosalind on the way. Barbara had never met her aunt, and based on how her mother and grandmother spoke about her, she realized that this was due to mutual animosity among her family.
Rosalind arrived in Cambridge one weekend in early August and occupied her time getting set up at school. There was much speculation among Barbara’s mother and grandmother about when or if Rosalind would make an appearance. She must have called, because Barbara can clearly remember a lengthy discussion among several family members about how to interpret the information Rosalind had shared with them about her mother and sisters. Just before the school year began, Rosalind came for a visit.
The young woman who arrived at Barbara’s home was very reserved and polite and didn’t seem willing to volunteer much information about herself. Barbara made sure she was the one who answered the door when her cousin arrived, since she was worried her family might try to shield her from this new relative. The only real information Rosalind volunteered was that her sister, Rhiannon, was a little younger than Barbara, and that she and Rosalind weren’t close.
Whatever it was Barbara had been expecting from Rosalind, the experience wasn’t what she had imagined. Rosalind was nice — friendly to an extent but not too friendly — and Barbara was left with far more questions than answers about her cousin.
“You’re welcome to join us for Mass,” their grandmother said as they were wrapping up the visit.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Rosalind said. Barbara couldn’t remember a single time Rosalind ever joined them.
About a year after she started school, Rosalind’s older sister killed herself and a few months later, Rosalind was diagnosed with cancer, so Barbara lost touch with her for several months. When she came back, there was something different about her; she seemed more driven and focused. Barbara still enjoyed the times Rosalind visited, but they were fewer and farther between and Barbara felt a distance between them that she had not felt before.