October 31st

My early childhood home was a 1923 farmhouse on a sizable lot by suburbia standards. To us kids, it was like an adventure camp. We had grapes growing on vines, a rock quarry where we would collect agates, a giant net between two massive trees in the front yard that we climbed on, and plenty of room to run around and dream up make-believe scenarios with our vivid imaginations.

We had a kid-sized wooden kitchen on our front porch where my sister and I would serve up mud pancakes to our younger brothers and then try and force them to clean up the mess. They would cry and run away looking for our Mom, but she always said the same thing when one of us tried to involve her in our shenanigans, “I am not a Policeman.” This created a Lord of the Flies type situation as we had no governing body and were pretty much lawless.

Because I was more assertive than my older sister, I was top dog. My brothers still carry some resentment toward me for how I ruled our roost—several scars on their forearms from my fingernails are evidence of my overly-aggressive tactics. My Mom didn’t grant me authority over my siblings, but I eagerly seized it when she declined to referee us. I could be a real asshole. I remember being aware of this at the time and I’m guessing this early self-observation is largely the reason I turned out to be a decent person.

We lived in a predominantly white affluent suburb, which was an interesting choice for our quirky family. If my parents weren’t aware, we were different. They were in full Hippie mode. Visitors, known and unknown to me, were constantly coming and going. The weeds were tall in the yard while the other type of weed was flowing freely. To deviate from the norm even further, my parents adopted my youngest brother who is Black, making us a bi-racial family. Everything about us seemed in sharp contract to the other households in my neighborhood.

The neighbor kids loved coming over to our house, which I thought was strange because, at the time, I wished I had a normal family like they did. I learned later that normal doesn’t make for an interesting life and what is unapologetically different is often the crowd favorite. 📸 by @selliottphoto