I don’t share DNA with most of my family: I’ve chosen them. My “aunts” are my safe place, my beloved friends, and my anchors. They started as my coaches when I was eight years old, going on 76, and the rest of my teammates were nine, going on 20. They saw this kid – the smallest and the slowest on the field, willing to show up an hour before anyone got to practice to put extra work in, still not as talented as many of the others, and I became theirs. On life’s terms, they were my coaches, then family friends, until they were just family.
The first time they came over to my family’s house to drop off a bucket of balls or a lineup sheet for my dad, their eyes grew wide. My Aunt Cathy, a strong-willed, opinionated, and direct woman who loves nothing more than a cold Coors Light and a deep-bellied cackle at an innocent soul tripping and falling, pulled me aside. She bent over next to my miniaturized body and looked at me with raised eyebrows. She got very close and said “Kid, you’d better start writing this shit down. You’re going to make a killing someday.”
Eight-year old Jordan smiled politely that day, ecstatic to have an assignment, already infatuated with the world of language and storytelling. Maybe I’m a little slow, but it took me years to really understand that other families don’t collect gargoyles in their front yards, walk their rabbits on a leash, adopt leftover playground equipment from forgotten schoolyards, or harbor “vintage” refrigerators and toilet seats “just in case.”
Don’t get me wrong, that house was bubbling over with a plethora of love and support. I love my family, quirky as they are, and I am beyond grateful to have grown up in a colorful home. Of course I wonder what it would have been like to only be allowed to wear a Halloween costume to school on October 31st or only have one, well-mannered pet, but that is not my story. My paternal grandmother only wears purple, my father keeps “just-in-case-equipment” (including but not limited to: gas masks, tires, lumber, old hoses, furniture, more gargoyles) stored in the front, back, and side yards at all times; we sometimes park on the lawn. I accepted the first time I spent three hours and forty-two minutes with my mom in the grocery store, sitting in the parked shopping cart, meticulously filing her coupons in the expandable file folder as she scoured the aisles, that my life would be a continuous unfolding of quirky, unplanned, and at times inexplicable events and experiences. I understood that my story would become colorful, sometimes confusing, but ultimately beautiful. I also understood that it was probably best that I buckle the seatbelt in the cart, just in case.