My family – by "family" I mean my mother and two sisters in addition to Frank, el Cinco, and me – is crazy. Not just crazy, but crazy. Batshit crazy. It's to the extent that I feel the need to warn first-time visitors to the insane asylum that is my house: You know we're crazy, don't you?
A typical Saturday: someone is being chased around the loop through the kitchen, family room, playroom, and back again. The chaser is wielding a cupful of ice to dump down the pants of the chased. There is an endless amount of teasing and ohmigosh – the noise. It's never ending. Everyone must shout to be heard over the music blasted from the speakers. The playlist is schizophrenic. The kids request La Vie Boheme, then that might be followed by anything from Dizzy Gillespe, to Korn, to Lil' Wayne, to the Jonas Brothers, Chris Brown, to Queen, to the GAP Band, to the Average White Band, to the Dave Matthews Band. We sing – loudly and badly – and dance wildly, but everything seems orchestrated and choreographed by timeless tradition. In my house, no matter where you are or you're doing, if you hear the Sugar Hill Gang's Apache, you know to drop everything and do this.
There's dialogue which sounds random and irrelevant to outsiders but makes perfect sense to us. If someone shouts, "ONE DAY, I'M GONNA BE BIGGER THAN YOU!," everyone else joins in chorus to respond, "AND THEN WHAT?" Or someone randomly yells, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY ROOM?," and we all break out into hysterical laughter. The proper response to "Your promises are like farts…," is "…they just faaaade in the wind." If someone flippantly says to you, "Just eat the cake, Anna Mae," you would be expected say, "Go straight to hell, Ike." You'd know what momjuice, planadomes, and Frankadumps are.
See? Batshit crazy.
People who are visiting for the first time are often overwhelmed, but in a good way. It's like watching a three-ring circus from the spotlighted center ring instead of being safely seated at a distance in the upper rows. At first, visitors are mere bystanders, surrounded 360o by the crazy clowns who sing and dance and laugh. Then before they know it, they've donned a red rubber nose and are juggling multi-colored bowling pins with us. Sometimes people come, feel like they have found home, and end up never leaving.
Just ask Frank.
We have a tendency to suck people in. Through the years (beginning with my childhood when my mom was the ringmaster and to the present where I master the circus in my own home), people have come to our house – and have found something they were missing. Whether they participated in the madness or just observed, people have come and have left emotionally nourished, even if only for a little while. Because here among the crazies, they can just be. People have come here to get away from it, whatever their personal its are. And if, by chance, they need to talk about it, they find that for all our lunacy and games and noise, we are quiet, attentive listeners. We are shoulders to cry on and natural nurturers. We are waiting hugs and solid pillars of support. We are people who will scream with you if you need to yell and we will be silent with you if it's just enough to know that we are there. We are abiders.
"Friend" is not a word that any of us use lightly. Someone who has been deemed a friend by one of us, by default becomes a friend of us all. We envelop our friends in as much love and warmth as we do clamor and busy-ness. Chance has been a dear friend to me since March, so my family has known just who I'm talking about when I make a hasty exit from the noise to meet up with her through webcams on Skype. Now that Chance and I, along with her husband Apollo, are embracing our happenstance and are embarking on this surrogacy journey together, my family is as emotionally invested as I am. Chance and Apollo have not yet set foot inside this circus, but they are already family.
Chance and Apollo's families – suffice it to say that they are the wrong type of clowns. Maybe this journey is meant to help fill more than one empty space for Chance and Apollo.