Do You Believe In Miracles

‘Do you believe in miracles!’

¬†Al Michaels iconic cry as time expired in the semi-final game of the Olympic Hockey tournament in 1980 in tiny little Lake Placid, NY. The feelings this can stir in me are notable. They run the gamut from patriotism to belief to hope to astonishment. There was no way we were going to win. They were the best of the best of the Evil Empire, men driven by personal and professional and patriotic duty of their own against our upstart group of ragamuffins. A team of college stars in a sport, Division 1 Mens Hockey, that didn’t make stars. We didn’t even have all the stars. Get me on the topic for too long and I might start to tell you we even had some high schoolers getting valuable minutes. While not technically accurate, as far as narrative goes it would be true enough. We were a nation ready to believe, looking for a miracle and this team, this makeshift team did it. They gave us our miracle.

It’s a thrilling and stirring tale. One capable of inspiring tears and long bouts of sentimental nostalgia. Which is shocking and possibly troubling as I didn’t watch the game. I didn’t even know it was happening. I doubt I learned about it until perhaps 8-10 years later. As best I can tell, we didn’t have it on our radar at my house. I learned of the story by learning about it.

Still the story is worthy of everything it gets and at times I think it’s worth so much more.

I grew up in the height of the Cold War. Russian equaled bad. They were the big bad wolf out to get us, I guess. I mean I remember fearing the idea of that nuclear weapons were in the mix, but that was the extent of my analysis. I was a kid. I saw War Games and I cheered when Rocky beat Ivan Drago (the sonofabitch who killed Apollo Creed). I knew that they were the enemy. My mind and sights were clear, but really I was just a kid. As much as I’ve heard about the tensions of the time I have to say, they didn’t filter down to me.

I grew up in the heartland, really. It’s New York State, but it’s the Great Lakes part of the state. I loved and hated where I grew up. Had nothing to do with where I grew up, I’d have felt that way anywhere. But it was a GREAT place to be a kid. A stupid, oblivious kid. A great place to get your first real kiss while playing truth or dare. A place to get caught by kindly neighbors telling on you that they saw you buying cigarettes at the diner cigarette machine. A great place to fall in love for the first time and to lose your mind when you saw that girl making out with the cool guy who you could never compete with because he was two years older than you and he had not only a license but a car. It was a great place to play basketball, sun up to sundown in playgrounds where other kids were playing. It was a great place to ride your bikes uptown and get pizza or tacos or see a movie or just hang out with all the other kids that lived near, ‘uptown.’ It was a great place to walk to the neighborhood doctor who knew you since you were new. Or to catch crayfish walking barefoot through the crick. It was a great place. Still is.

It wasn’t a place for me to process the Cold War, despite all of it happening, apparently, the whole time I was doing all that other stuff. It wasn’t a place that was nervous or palpably anxious. It wasn’t a place that was out of step and it wasn’t a place that was in line. It was my American experience. I suppose the seeds of what has happened since were around. Factories closed. Our local economy had for generations been underpinned by Kodak and I did see that diminish a ton while I was growing up. Hard not to notice as it was kids parents you went to school with. Other things popped up, but nothing, no amount of things popping up could make up for losing jobs by the tens of thousands, seemingly every year for a couple decades there. Good jobs too. Union jobs for a labor force that often had only needed a high school degree. Just gone. I saw that. Didn’t know it would be such a harbinger of things to come for a pretty big stretch of the country. I imagine my elders did see it coming. Imagine those that stayed saw it coming and to some degree perhaps even got caught standing on the path.

I don’t know what my kids lives will be 30 years from now. My parents weren’t locals to where I’m from and their parents aren’t local to where they’re from. I suspect that trend will continue, but who’s to say. Perhaps my kids will love it here so much that they stay. I would be happy. I would be happy to know that they not only loved where we raised them and found a community of kind and caring friends and neighbors here, but also if they were inclined to stay because the opportunities look like staying was a good decision. I’d like them to have options.

I’m anxious. I’m scared about the direction of so many things. The economy. The hostility that seems to be so prevalent in so many. The rising social issues, some we considered if not resolved, heading inevitably in that direction in the America I grew up in. The role of America in a world in upheaval, without the terrifying order the Cold War provided. I’m hoping this anxiety that seems to be floating free in the world is resolved and my children grow up as I did. Happily oblivious to all that they will one day read about and wonder how they didn’t see it all. Nostalgic for that miracle that is awaiting us just around the corner.

My Sister

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The family she arrived to

My earliest memory of my sister was of a man coming to our house to speak with my parents. He was there to see if our home was a stable one. One where my sister would be welcomed and provided for. One where she would not only be safe, but hopefully nurtured and loved. I remember my mom essentially asking me to be on my best behavior before they arrived, but who’s to say whether or not that actually happened. I was, after all, just 6 years old.

I didn’t really understand why we were getting another sister. I had 2 already. There were 3 of us boys. I don’t think much of an effort was made to explain it, but that said, I have a six year old now and it’s remarkable the things he doesn’t hear us saying and the things he does. Maybe there was a giant family meeting. Maybe it was just the few words of encouragement to act normal when the interviewer came over to meet us.

Maya Lin (this is the name of the designer of the Vietnam Memorial and I will be using it in place of my sisters name in this post) was a teenage girl from Vietnam and we were a very big and ever growing family of white, suburban, Great Lakes style americans. We must have been quite a shock to her. Tall, pale and rembunctiously carefree. We were loud and curious, bold and kind. We were a station wagon with wood paneling kind of family who couldn’t have been more American. I can’t for the life of me, now, imagine what it was like for her to be dropped into this story as a young girl. At the time it never ocurred to me to wonder.

I was not all that welcoming. It’s just not a strength of little boys. I argued with her over the TV. A lot. To my memory my mom always sided with Maya. I was always cordial in screaming about how unfair it was and storming out of the room. I was a real charmer back then. Before long she acclimated. Never has more been swept aside in so short a time as me brushing past the acclimation process. But what can I know. She was plopped down into a new home and made a member of a new family in an instant. It was never questioned, never fretted on. Not from our side, my side at least.

Sure, my mother will tell you, if you ask, about that time, about her incredulous reaction to seeing snow fall, a thing she’d come accustomed to in no time as we lived in the 3rd snowiest city in America according to the video I watched on Facebook yesterday. It was from The Weather Channel and it meshes with my memory and the common understanding of where I’m from. She’ll tell you about how she had to have the TV to watch Soap Operas, a thing that was banned in my house for the wild disregard for moral behavior, to learn the language. My mom, and I don’t know how she figured this out, showed her these shows because all the characters spoke slowly, they over emoted, they spoke directly to the camera in close up and they repeated themselves over and over. Minus the horrid personal behavior, they were ideal for teaching the language. The other favorite was West Side Story. Musical theater courses through both sides of my family and while the appeal of this was lost on six year old me, the effect for language acquisition was also helpful. And she flat loved West Side Story. Mom would also tell you of her struggles acclimating to school and the challenge it was for her in that short time before she got the language down and made a friend or two.

I’d tell you about the new smells that as a 6 year old I thought were horrifying. This shouldn’t shock anyone who’s ever had a little boy. I had to leave the room the other day because I was eating a banana and this was just too much for Teddy to handle. In my case it was the smells of the food that I now realize I really missed out on. My palate has grown in sophistication since then and at this time when half my calories comes from cough drops and the other half comes from cold, discarded, nuggeted meats it feels like a real missed opportunity. Then there was the smell of bad overboiled hot dogs coming from the bathroom when her friend came over. It was just a home perm, a thing a thousand teenage girls that year did in my town, but none lived with us. My older brothers were yet to pull the trigger on the home perm.

Whatever her experience I can’t tell you. But I can tell you that it was a fully family version of growing up. It was sadly not the ideal version of family that was taken from her. But it was a very loving one she made her way to and became a part of. And because she did I learned of the small but thriving Vietnamese community where we went to shop with her. I saw the food from all over the world I had never imagined existed so close to me. I learned the look of government issued, self enveloping, light blue international letter paper that allowed her to get what I think were censored letters from her family in Vietnam. It taught me that I could love her in all the same complicated ways we all love our individual family members. I remember being sad when we dropped her off at college and happy when she could and would come home for holidays. I remember missing her way of eating, a thing you don’t think can be different, so different before you see it. I remember feeling like something was missing when she wasn’t there and feeling like we were all home when she was.

Our whole family was growing as this all took place. We were adding new members and each of us growing as well. By the time she was done with college she had a boyfriend. A Vietnamese boyfriend. I was 16(ish) and we were now 6 Medler’s (My youngest brother was born in 84) and everyone that would be a part of our family had arrived, to one degree or another, by this point. Whether it was right after college or a few years later her boyfriend eventually asked her to marry him. She said yes.

The wedding was to be in King Of Prussia, just outside of Philadelphia. I don’t know why, but I think they were living there at the time. She worked at a bank, I know that much, but honestly, she could have been president or a part time teller. Regardless I now look back on her asking me to be in her wedding with immense pride. It’s a real honor that she thought of me. I’m afraid at the time I was not so gracious. I said no. Yeah. I was also from a family where they respected my right to do such a thing. I’m sorry I did that. I’m incredibly thankful that they also asked my older brothers, both of whom have been and remain far more gracious in such matters.

Well, shortly before the wedding, and I mean very shortly, one of those government issued, self enveloping, light blue international letters arrived to alert Maya that her whole family was being released (had been granted visa’s.) I can’t begin to imagine how this felt for her. She hadn’t seen her mother and father and sisters and brothers since leaving. They hadn’t seen her since she was taken away. I can’t get into details I don’t know, but I know that what happened in the time between her leaving home and arriving to us was scary. She was made to leave in a moments notice and she was in a camp for some period of time. There were long periods when she was cargo on boats with no place to go, having no idea what life would hold if there was a future. She experienced and endured, as a teenage girl, innocent and surely terrified, things I know I never would have endured. But now she was here. My big sister. Annoying and loving. My honest to god sister. All the while waiting and hoping she could see her family again.

They would be arriving in a short time and once there the wedding would be in a matter of days. I remember us all, now in a minivan, making our way from Brockport New York down to Philly and checking into as few rooms as were reasonable for our large family, and getting dressed in our fancy duds. Mike and Eric in their tuxes and I in my Don Johnson whites (it was the 80’s) and my sisters in their best. My parents were old pros. They left enough time for us to woof down some happy meals and such in the parking ot of the McDonalds before heading over to the wedding, where all the food would be stuff our sensibilities hadn’t yet caught up to. I’m sure they were traditional Vietnamese wedding foods, but we weren’t really the traditional Vietnamese wedding goers. Not by a long shot. My Abraham Lincoln looking father matched old Abe in every detail, even height and frame. 6’4″ and slender, of Irish and Finnish descent. Still, we were there, her family. We weren’t in the front row, as that was for her Vietnamese family, but we were ushers and pasrticipants, those of us wise enough to recognize and accept that honor. Again, very sorry.

Anyway, there I sat, a foreigner in my homeland at a joyous celebration for my sister and her new husband. The ceremony was in Vietnamese and we knew to follow along. Our little league of nations pew at the church each weekend was one that taught us how to be attuned to ritual and cermony and this was no different. Just a different language. I remember looking back as the music started. My father and sister emerged, arm in arm. They walked down the aisle, she a bride and he her dad. It was beautiful. When they got to the first pew my father stopped, removed his arm and kissed her cheek and handed her hand to her fathers arm who took her the rest of the way and ceremonially gave her away.

I can’t imagine what this was like for her Vietnamese family. I can say that a lot of what I now see as extraordinarily meaningful was not so profound in the moment. I didn’t realize it all, what it all meant at the time. I’m discovering layers even as I write it here.

Our lives take on different meanings as they beat ever forward. Contexts and understandings change as we do. I know that my sister was meant to be a part of my family. It may not have been predestined, it may have come as the result of wretched circumstance. But in the end the love that we had, that persists to this days as we are all flung far and wide is something I’m so thankful for.

Kelly, Casey, Prince and Me

‘I think I’m starting to have feelings for Casey.’

It’s a pretty devastating thing to hear. Not to mention somewhat emasculating. She’s with me, after all. I mean, I didn’t pursue her. The fact that we were dating was a result of her stating we were dating and me nodding in aggreement.

‘What does that mean?’

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Yeah, I wasn’t ready…

It was a sincere question. Straightforward as well. I had a sense that something bad was happening but I honestly didn’t understand the phrasing. That said, I knew enough to feel queasy and a little nervous asking. I’d hear and speak both parts of this conversation and variations on it for years to come, but this time, this was the first. She was trying to be nice and I was trying to be cool. I was on my Schwinn Predator, which was a pretty badass set of wheels for an almost 11 year old so I was able to retain a certain amount of pride, even while being dumped without knowing it.

We only dated for the summer. It was 1984 and as a 10 year old I was pretty much free to do anything I could with a bike and a full day of sunlight to mess around in. Kelly was almost 14 I’d guess, at least 13. She was going to be in eighth grade in the fall and I was entering fifth. Needless to say this was a coup that my friends my own age, well my one friend, marvelled at. I was confused by it. I seemed to get some sort of credit for engineering something and I accepted the accolades, but I knew I was a fraud. I certainly enjoyed the make out sessions we’d have in garages and alleyways. The garage was the shed that sat behind my house where we shared floor space with bikes and yard tools and needed a flashlight to see and the alley was the alley behind the Main Street shops that ran between King St and the police station behind the Studio theater. It was as urban an environment as my little town had to offer and I loved being there. It was dangerous and cool.

We were the kids that ran back there that summer. We had claim to the place because Kelly’s mom owned Hairport, though I’m not sure it had that name yet, which had a back door out to the alley. We’d ocassionally go upstairs to the apartment they lived in and watch TV. But mostly we’d all be outside, trying to inhale cigarettes and trying to get into more and more trouble without getting caught.

My older brother was dating her older sister and by the end of the summer there was even flirtations between my younger sister and her younger brother. I think they even joined one of the epic games of truth or dare that were excuses to kiss, with tongue, for longer and longer stretches, always timed by whoever was around. That’s what dating was and it was awesome and terrifying and sad and joyous. Not a bad harbinger, actually.

There I sat, one foot on the pedal, the other on the ground in as cool a pose as a ten year old can take, with no idea why she took me down to this end of the alley to talk. I thought it was cool that she was discovering feelings. I could see why Casey might feel something for her. She was pretty and a good kisser as far as I could tell, though I had nothing to compare her too. I guessed she was telling me that I should keep an eye on Casey, not that I’d know what to look for or what to do if I saw something.

When she started walking back to the group of kids huddled around the steps at the back of the shop she probably thought I wasn’t going to follow. I say that now, at the time I thought I was doing what I was supposed to. When I pulled up and took my place in the loose ring of town kids who were cool she still hadn’t seen me and was leaning on Casey’s handlebars. It felt like a betrayal, but maybe I was being a little kid about it.

‘Hey Joey. How’s it going?’ Casey asked.

Kelly snapped her head around and looked confused. It took her a minute and I am so thankful to her for not speaking out loud what she must have been thinking, but eventually she must have put it together that I didn’t get what happened. That was okay. She may have said something or may not have, but whatever she did she was nice about it. She must have realized that I was 10. I sure as hell realized that Casey was 15. At least. He sat on his bike like a man. Both feet on the ground, knees bent and arms free. To fold. Cool and imposing.

Before long everything was back to normal and it was just a group of kids hanging out, drinking pop and eating candy. Surely someone had some loose cigarettes and someone knew where there were some beers hidden on the towpath, but looking back it was all so innocent. Boys would drift around popping wheelies and trying tricks. The girls were listening for their favorite songs and singing along as long as they could resist laughing and falling into each other. My wheelies were tight so I was good. But it was coming together. I was seeing what had happened. What was happening.

‘Oh my god. Have you heard this yet?’ Kelly said, not to anyone in particular.

‘No.’ I said.

‘It’s Prince. There’s a whole movie that goes with the album.’

‘The 1999 guy?’ I asked.

‘Yes. This is amazing.’ She said as the song was rewound and played again from the start.. Dearly Beloved…

‘I don’t really like it. To electronic.’ I said. I was trying to be cool. Boys in my town, we listened to WCMF. Classic rock. This was that poppy PXY stuff. It seemed unmanly to like it and I was just learning the script and was eager to throw around my wisdom, however newly discovered.

‘I don’t know man. There’s some tracks on here that will make you sit down and think Some that can make you emotional. I don’t think you’re giving it a full shot.’ Said Casey.

It was over. If Kelly never fully put it together that I was just 10, I sure did. Right then. At least I had the smarts not to argue the point. I stuck around for a bit longer, surely. I didn’t want the world to see me slink away. But time and the topic at hand moved on, some kids had gotten enough together to get a couple of the huge slice’s at Papa Joe’s and I decided to head back to my house to shoot some hoops.

A Love Letter to My Home

2014-12-26 12.15.14From the kitchen window in the house I grew up in you could see my lawn. It stretched out flat like a sheet of green for 70 feet to Clark St. It was a front lawn made to be the play place. When my parents moved there it was decided that the front yard would be the place to play. Their last home had a beautiful, big back yard, with swings and a garden and even a great tree for climbing. But without fail the boys always ended up in the front yard. It was where you wanted to be. You didn’t want to miss out on other kids coming and going. It was the late 70’s and that was what you did. You played with all the neighbor kids.

The lawn on Clark Street was lined by woods to the left and the driveway to the right. It’s a gravel driveway in my mind. Mostly chalky dust still painful to walk on but worn so thin by the constant comings and goings of so many. It’s probably been paved close to 20 years by now, but I’ve been gone for most of that.

It was the lawn where pictures were taken. In formal clothes or shoeless and ragged and smiling from joyful exertion and childhood exploring. It was the lawn we ignored from the porch while we ate breakfasts and read newspapers and chatted. The lawn we’d look out to on beautiful summer mornings, a thing not to be missed where I’m from, where snow is likely to cover the grass for 6 months solid, if not more, and laugh embarrassedly but lovingly as our parents would lie on the grass holding hands. Who knew what crazy things they were talking about, it wasn’t the point at the time. The point was how weird our amazing and beautiful parents were. I could write those conversations now and while I’d be hard pressed for accuracy, I suspect they would read those words and hear the conversations they had, enjoying the privacy of their tiny shangrila in the middle of so much youthful burbling and angst. They’d have been telling each other the funny thing one of the kids said that the other hadn’t heard. They’d be recounting the plans for the summer and making decisions while holding hands in the grass my mother liked to keep a little long and a little wild. They’d be living love the way you do when it surrounds you and consumes you and you find yourself awash in the logistics of simply maintaining such a healthy harvest. My father would have the chance to be funny. He was always funny. The quiet and opportunistic kind of funny. Observant and smart. The best funny, the kind that leads with the ear. But he’d get the chance to be funny for his lady. Funny in a way the kids wouldn’t get and she couldn’t resist. Before long, but not too quickly, life would remind them it’s time to get back at it and they would. But they’d be back.

 Across the street, a slow, unlined simple village road, was the park. It was Corbett park but to us it was just the park. The park that watched us grow while it grew and changed over time. The park that had everything we ever needed, everything I ever needed. The park where we hid in order to explore being dangerous and being bad when we got older, where we could spend hours when we were little on now ancient seeming playground apparatus that our children will recoil at if they ever have kids of their own. Hardly believing that you could be spun so fast at 4 or 5 or 6 or older, depending on how big you were and how big the spinner was, so fast that you could hold on to the bars and with full extension spin endlessly. You’d fall and get up and try to swing so high that you’d be able to fully flip it. Never saw it, but I heard about it. We’d all heard about it.

When I got older the park became the basketball court for me. The parking lot for others. But during my prime people seemed to respect that the hoop on the Main Street side of the lot was mine and you parked on the far end. Or maybe it was just that way because for a good number of years I was out there, rain or shine, morning to night. When I was old enough I’d bring the car over and shoot in the lights with the radio on. It was my home court, always will be. I shoveled it to keep shooting. I would shoot in the middle of the night. Must have driven the neighbors crazy. All day every day. It was my first deep deep love. I always had basketball. Through ups and downs and joys and pains I always had that hoop.

When we wanted to test ourselves the park once again provided all we needed. At the back of the park, the horizon of that view from the small window at the kitchen sink, past the tennis courts was the pit. The pit was a giant hole dug at the back, between the park and the steep but small hill that led up to the towpath along the canal. It’s fair to say we grew up between the Erie Canal and Lake Ontario, but we could walk to the canal, which we could see from our porch, in perhaps as much as 3 minutes while the lake was some twenty miles behind our house, through at least two other municipalities. Still, they were parameters of sorts, at least in my mind. Nothing that pinned us in, just something that gave us our bearings.

The pit would grow green like all the other open area in the flatlands that is the Great Lakes area of the country. But to us boys it was dirt. One solid line of dirt maybe a foot wide that started at the patch of trees that signified the point where the canal slope, the park and the pit convened. You’d disappear behind on your BMX bike as you’d gathered all the speed your legs and the descent from the towpath would get you. When you emerged from that tiny patch of trees you’d make another, shallow descent into the pit where you’d churn your legs as hard as you could. Maybe not that first time, but even then you’d fake it. Then you’d hit the best playground BMX jump that suburbia ever created and you’d soar, sometimes as much as 20 feet when you got good at it. I swear. It was epic.

To this day my mother says she was at the window in the kitchen when we proved it was a bad idea to do this kind of thing on a motorcycle. I say we, but it was one guy. He made it, but he also crashed through a chainlink fence surrounding the tennis courts a good fifty feet from the lip of the jump. At least that’s how I remember it. That’s how we talk about it, which we do every couple of years now when it comes up.

At the end of the day you’d make your way home, walking up that long driveway and know how lucky you were. I can still sense it in every way just by closing my eyes. I can feel the gravel under my feet and smell the trees and the more subtle smell of long uncut grass. I can hear the birds making their nightly ascent from the woods we explored for thousand of hours. It’s going to be one of the places I sense most vividly on my death bed no matter how old I am or how much I’ve lost. I love that big blue house on the middle of our block in a town I’ll always love but I know I will see so rarely now that life is upon me and I’m busy trying to make a world half as magical for my kids to remember when they are out and finding what will be there home.

Leos.wedding.weekendIt may no longer be our house. It was our house and that’s enough. Now there are other people making other memories and living the good life in the best place a kid could ever grow up. But in my heart and in my mind it will always be my house. The house I grew up in, the home I loved before all others. What a lucky kid I was.

Learning to See

family.pictureAt first my family was everything. Then they were my everyday. Then they were my identity. Then they were that from which I needed to break free.

I was compelled to leave and couldn’t. I was fifteen or sixteen and temperament and hormones conspired to convince me I wasn’t happy, that it was an awful place and that I MUST get out of there to become whom I was meant to be. Its a very harsh, but from what I can tell a fairly common sentiment at that age when you think you know everything. On this energy I catapulted out of the cradle of my life and found a big, amazing world and I’m so happy that I did. Had I not I would never have been able to see how wonderful a world I had been born to.

I grew up amidst the apple orchards, corn fields and rust belt industrial hubs of western New York. Brockport, New York, to be specific. It’s an area that is occasionally mistaken for belonging to the northeast, but as a matter of reality its the Midwest. Much more in common with Cleveland than with New York or Boston.

I love the place, I miss the place and I imagine I always will. It was a beautiful place to grow up, and a cold one. Not many people would think of North Jersey as more hospitable in winter, but EVERYONE from where I’m from would. In fact it gives me a palpable sense of superiority every winter when locals complain about anything more than a dusting of snow and how hard it is to drive. Please. I was born in November and took my drivers test in January in Brockport, NY amidst copious amounts of lake effect snow.

From time to time I would have the occasion to bring people back home to Brockport. Often it was folks that worked at the lodge with me while I was in college. They were usually in their early twenties like me, and often from other countries. From my perspective it was a chance to have worlds collide, friends from home hanging out with my new found friends from far and wide.

We would go to bars, drink in apartments and socialize like young people the world over do. During the days we’d look for things to do. Being me and being in my early 20’s and breaking free of my home at that time I had a generally negative view of my region of the world and a specifically negative outlook on the town I was from. Shamefully now, I was embarrassed most of my home and my family. Bringing strangers from strange lands to visit changed that for me. It gave me a fresh perspective on what was in fact the great good fortune of my charmed life.

The broad, vast, open sky and miles and miles of beautifully worked farmland was visual white noise for me by the time I left. I would warn folks of the sea-level, flat monotony of the region. It was something entirely different to them. Taking them to see Hamlin Beach on Lake Ontario, the only thing I’d ever considered a lake, and to have them point out the obvious to me, who was so used to this sight as to think it nothing, that it was in fact hardly distinguishable from an ocean and breathtaking not only in its scope but also in it’s unexpected beauty was paradigm changing.

To bring them to Niagara falls and see there mouths agape, speechless at its awesome grandeur made me reassess this thing I’d so long taken for granted. I’m from a place, not nowhere. That place is unique and vast and beautiful. It’s a thing I was certain it was not, it was gorgeous. It took looking through others gobsmacked eyes to realize what it was I’d been looking at all those years.

While my head was down lamenting the tediousness of flat topography the eyes of my friends, eyes from the world over looked up and marveled at a sky they never imagined could be so enormous and vast and filled with so many stars.

In high school all that I was embarrassed me. I was popular and a jock and not a kid that was picked on or mocked. I’ve come to find that many of the young men I grew up with who were similarly fortunate have never stopped longing for that time. I was not reveling in it and felt little more than relief that my older years turned out far better than my younger years suggested they might be.

I was uncomfortable in my role. I was certain that I needed to get away from all I was to be what I wanted to be. And this was indeed true.

Becoming an adult is an act of contrivance and one that only made sense after the job at hand was completed. An inkling snuck in at the edges of my youthful anger and self-righteousness that I was in fact from a truly special family. But I needed the fuel of thinking I had something to run from, something that would always forgive me and accept me after my return, in order to motivate me out of the local bars and past a comfortable but unchallenged existence. For me that was getting away from the ‘crazies’ that were incontrovertibly ‘my tribe’, and trying to find another tribe to call my own. And I did.

The Lodge. It was an experience that propelled me directly to where I sit in life now. It allowed space for me to be curious and envious and striving and lazy and ponderous and annoying and loved. Thank god I went.

A funny thing started to happen. As I met and learned of the private lives of eccentrics and strivers and stoners and journeyers I learned that I am just like everyone else. All the things I felt shamefulness embarrassment about were in fact precisely what made me able to relate to these free thinkers, adventurers and truly revolutionary spirits who both attended the lodge and provided stewardship to the place. I started to feel like there might be a day when I’d feel fully comfortable in my skin and harmonious with my people.

I started bringing the world to my family and was afforded the opportunity to see them through others eyes. I came to realize that I had perceived them so ungenerously.

My family is what was and remains the most amazing gift my life has provided for me. They are generous and kind and thoughtful. They are fierce and funny and incredibly smart. They keep you sharp and keep you warm and keep you laughing and with the right mix at the right time, they keep the party going, although a laid back party with smart jokes and warm smiles.

Now that I’ve seen a few things, not a ton, but some, I know their was no better place on the planet to have grown up. I’ve met some people and had some victories and some struggles and in the end I am certain my big, crazy, funny, talented and thoughtful family is the only reason I am any of the good things I may be.

There is no doubt in my mind that I was exactly where I was meant to be, exactly when I was meant to be there and I will look back for whatever time I have left with nothing but generosity and appreciation for the wonderful family I was born into.

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