Most of the family I felt closest to in my childhood wasn’t family at all but more technically (genetically speaking anyway) family friends, specifically the children of family friends. My Mom was big on the idea of building your own family and while I can’t say she was good at choosing all the time I can say the concept stuck with me for good reason. True family is one that is there for you, regardless, not holding their own intentions and motives over you.
One person who was a big part of my not-family was a girl named Hannah, who I always called Hannah Banana. She was joyful, fun and quarky and I am not sure I remember a time when we didn’t get along. I always respected her ability to be herself regardless of what others expected. We did, however, grow apart.
But sometimes people who grow apart come back together and that is what happened recently as I received some messages from her randomly one morning. She found me on social media, somewhat by chance. We’ve reconnected and in our talks I found out she has been compiling her poetry for publishing, which is exciting. She sent me a manuscript with a warning that one was about me, and that’s what this post is about.
The poem, shown above, depicts me perfectly. I remember the day she was talking about as if it were yesterday. Those were the days when we lived off grid in Cleveland and I would go to the library weekly with a suitcase full of books to return them for new ones. The day I saw Hannah last was different, as they met me downtown and helped me with a bit of an unorthodox farming adventure.
The woman who drove was my Mom’s best friend (someone who I have cut out for the specific reason that she called the cops on me last time I saw her, family doesn’t call the cops on family, period) and she had Hannah with her which made what was already going to be a fun day, even better. We were going to go out by where they lived about 45 minutes away for free horse manure compost that John saw advertised on Craigslist. You read that right, horse manure.
So they picked me up and took me to lunch before we headed out their way. We ended up having a lot more adventures including involving picking up another cousin (genetically different family friend I loved) along the way. It was the weekend when Oberlin College lets out for the summer which is a notorious garbage picking day.
If there’s one thing I learned from my Mom’s chosen family it was resourcefulness. They could (and probably still do) see value in other people’s trash, especially when those people are the spoiled kids of Oberlin College. They’d just throw out microwaves, tvs and more because it was inconvenient to take them home at the end of the year.
We basically found clothes and the electronics we did find were broken. We made a stop at Hannah’s house, were I got to see her mom who was another best friend of my Mom’s. They had chickens and the cutest little garden and they sent me home with eggs which were some of the best I had ever had up to that point.
We went from there to go get the horse compost which we quickly found wasn’t composted at all but fresh, bagged and left in a massive pile. Hannah and I kept making jokes about how it was good shit because even without composting, plants were growing out of the pile.
We grabbed as much as that nearly broken down jeep would hold and they took me home to my somewhat illegal garden that I had on stolen government land to drop it off. I hugged both my Mom’s friend and Hannah several times before we parted ways. I used every bit of that horse manure despite lack of composting and it made for a happy garden.
I had no idea that day that would be the last time I would see Hannah. Before she found me recently, she considered me lost forever. I purposefully left behind much of my family but there were a few people that I left behind that were genuinely good. Some of them I have sought out, a few others have found me.
Its been refreshing to choose who I want and who I don’t want in my life. Life is too short for people that are there for the wrong reasons. What that poem shows me (as well as virtually all my experiences with her) is that at least someone in my childhood saw me for what I am, not some precious flower which needed protecting.
Hannah, thanks for writing that poem and for taking the time to read my story to catch yourself up. You remind me there’s value in choosing your own family, I’m glad we’re cousins for life, regardless of DNA.