In a nutshell, my aunt married a black man and they had some kids. Those kids found black partners and had some kids of their own. Then those kids found some black partners and had some more kids. Yeah, they start early. My 40 year old cousin is already a grandma*. But that's neither here nor there.
*Interestingly enough, 40 Year Old Grandma is the name of my upcoming Indie folk/noisetronica project
They don't really gather with the other sides of the family, and up until now I had only met a few of them individually, so this holiday season was the first time I had ever met them all together at once. We drove to their big, shared house, in which I helped my 92 year old grandma, who's recovering from a nasty fall, move in. She's going to be living there now.
And I won't lie, it was such a trip. First off, the entire house smells like weed. And I may not smoke it, but I know what it smells like.
"Dave's not here, man."
Also, I was pretty surprised to see that they looked a lot like me... well, if I was darker, had the ability to grow bitchin' facial hair, and/or had the ability to grow a killer afro. Side note: in high school I wore an afro wig to my school ID photo shoot as a joke, and apparently it fit my face so well that they didn't even question if it was my real hair.
So afros look good on us. And really, I can see the familial resemblance. Which is kinda cool. However, talking to them is a little weird. It certainly brings out my inner awkward white guy, if only because they talk so differently to my parents and me than they do when (they think) they're alone.
So it was, well, interesting to overhear that and then sit in silence as they would come back into the room and ask us politely about Denver or about our drive up. It's a culture shock, to say the least, but we appreciate them taking us all into consideration, as I don't know how my mom would handle getting asked to "move her stank ass" so they could get into the refrigerator and fetch her that cup of water she asked for.
And of course, there was also the awkwardness behind the small talk of what we all do for a living. Having that conversation with one of my cousins was just beyond anything I had ever experienced.
And mind you, when I was telling him this (they don't even have a computer in the house), I kinda felt like I was presenting myself like this.
But that's not the surprising part. No, the surprising part was me reciprocating the question.
Meanwhile I'm thinking THIS.
I mean, call me sheltered, but I was pretty happy never having known someone that had been shot, much less a family member, and in a drive by at that. He was so nonchalant about it, but clearly thankful to be alive. And no, he's not in a gang. He says he was mistaken for someone else in the dark who was gang affiliated. And I'm not naive. He just doesn't seem the type. What a horrifying thought, though. Most days I squeal like a little girl when I'm listening to my headphones and the cord gets wrapped around a door handle and yanks out my earbuds. I couldn't imagine going through that.
So yeah, I visited my black family this year, for the first time ever, and it was a hell of an experience. But affinity for the n-word aside, they're a great bunch of caring people that have taken in my grandma when no one else would or could (I certainly can't. My house is all stairs, which is like a limb-breaking minefield for a 92 year old woman).
Let's face it, these folks would not be hanging out with me if we weren't related. But they're a blast to spend time with, they're really kindhearted, and they don't judge my nerdy, awkward whiteness or remind me that I'm not nearly as cool as I think I am. And isn't that what family's all about?
So tell me about your weird ass families.
Cheers and stay classy, my n...eighbors,
Bryan (and Brandon)
Music: Fenech Soler
Beer: Upslope Christmas Ale