The Lower Side of the Family

A lunar eclipse on a Friday the 13th. The Jaguars winning the Super Bowl. Lauryn Hill’s next album. These are all things that, given enough time, seem inevitable to occur. I mean we’re talking a lot of time (especially on that last one, unfortunately), but nothing is impossible.  In fact, I would have taken a bet that any of these would’ve come to pass before the minor Christmas miracle that did yesterday; I drove a couple miles down the road and spent time with my family.

Making the trek to my aunt’s house — the epicenter of our clan’s chaos — takes a lot more emotional work than physical. Whenever I’m around more than one or two of my extended family, I immediately feel like I’m on the set of my own personal gay version of The Klumps. So as I sat on Christmas day in the midst of seven people having eight different loud conversations, one of my cousins leaned over to me and welcomed me to “the lower side of the family.”

I took a moment to breathe it in. Actually I think I was breathing in the cat hair that was flying around the room like tumbleweeds. But I thought about it and I realized how messed up and accurate that statement was.

Yeah, this is just like us. I'm Janet obviously.
Yeah, this is just like us. I’m Janet obviously.

I come from truly ghetto DNA. We are felons, drunks, drama queens, baby mommas, deadbeat daddies, system abusers, victims, hustlers. For a long time I felt like the black sheep; and I think it’s because I am. Even as a kid I felt like I never really fit in with my family (or kind of anyone for that matter).  I put a lot of distance between us and have worked hard to maintain it.

But something weird happened on Christmas day. I actually had a really fun time. In the midst of all the shenanigans (most of which will be both in my act and in a script soon enough) I connected with my people. It was great talking to my cousins who are now grown and seeing how they’ve adjusted to the crooked branches on our family tree. It’s eye-opening talking to the older relatives and hearing stories from when things really used to be wild.

I learned most of all that I come from a family of survivors, of tough ass people who have endured unspeakable circumstances, created some of their own, and lived to drink the 40 and recount the story. We will never have much in common, but I’ll be glad to pay a visit sometime before next Christmas.


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