My cousin Michella lit up any room she came into. I was closer to her in age (one month older) than any one else I am related to. I say was because she passed away this afternoon. Throughout our adult lives we’ve only seen each other a few times a year, but the strong bond from childhood made any time apart feel like mere seconds as we could joke with each other instantly upon seeing the other.
Our grandparent’s house on Short Street in Patton Village (Splendora, TX) was usually the scene of our shenanigans growing up. Some of my earliest memories are of playing with my cousins “Shelly” and Wendell in our grandparent’s yard, as the adults would usually give us the boot outside. In later years, my sisters Gaylyna and Amber would join the tribe, along with our cousin Travis on occasion. My older brother Brad was around in the early years too, but you would probably find him somewhere curled up with a book or working on a tree house way behind Papa and Grandma’s yard rather than hanging with us youngsters. While being heavy runs in the Murphy family, we didn’t get that way from sitting inside watching TV, though we did enjoy watching “The Dukes of Hazzard” on Friday nights. We were usually outside playing or plotting. We’d make obstacle courses with lawn furniture, build forts, help our Papa burn leaves, tunnel through piles of dirt Papa had brought in, and just about anything else to entertain ourselves.
Shelly had no fear and was probably the toughest out of all of us. One time we walked down to the Splendora Food Center at the end of Tram Road. We noticed an old shopping cart on a burn pile out back. I think it was Shelly that went in and asked if we could have it. So, we started pushing it down Tram Road, wobbly, half melted wheels and all. My Mom was at my grandparent’s house and became worried that we were gone so long. Mom came driving down Tram Road in our family’s brown Chevy van with a recently broken out windshield (that’s a story in itself). We loaded the shopping cart into the van and took it back to Papa and Grandma’s house. What do you do with a shopping cart with half melted wheels? We dared each other to get pushed into the steepest part of the ditch in it. Shelly had no problem going over in the steepest parts. That’s just who she was, nothing scared her, and she found most things funny, even in serious situations.
When our family moved from Kansas to Splendora in the fall of 1985, I had already been to several different schools between Texas and Kansas. When I started school in Splendora in the middle of 4th grade, Shelly was the only person I knew. We were in the same grade, but different classes. She looked out for me though. If she thought someone was messing with me, she would get in their face and tell them to back off. We moved a few more times and I attended school in 6th and 7th grade in other places, but when I came back to Splendora in 8th grade, she was quickly on the prowl if she caught wind of someone giving me problems. She was fiercely loyal. During our freshman or sophomore year of high school, the World Geography teacher, Ms. Audrey sat everyone in alphabetical order. Somehow Shelly and I ended up in the same class. I think it was the only class we were ever in together. We had a good time as we cut up a lot! I guess too good of a time for a week or so anyway. Within a week, Ms. Audrey had Shelly moved out of the class. Two Murphys in the same class was too much for her.
As I sit here writing this out, I can’t even comprehend how much I am going to miss my dear cousin. She lost her Mom, Aunt Evelyn a few years before I lost my Mom. When my Mom passed, Shelly was good about checking on me and seeing how I was doing. I realized I hadn’t done the same for her when she lost her Mom. Even though she had a mischievous stripe that was assigned to us at birth, she was also a very caring person. I don’t know if someone who didn’t know her that well would know that about her. Thank you, Shelly, for always having my back! I hope you could count on me like I could you.
While I am heartbroken, I will always remember the laughter shared with Shelly. The same laughter as recently as last Saturday, as from our childhood running around our grandparent’s house and yard. Though the laughter ended too soon today.