How Do You Have 18 Uncles? — The Inevitable Question

Answering that takes a bit more than a single blog, and requires laying some groundwork

Mitchell Peterson


With Uncle Jeff

Note to readers: My work has shifted to another website and all posts are at This is simply an introduction for my former audience.

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“Yes, real uncles.” Whenever I tell someone I have 18 Uncles, I get the same follow-up, “Like, eighteen real uncles?” And I have to confirm, ”Yes, real uncles.” Most either assume they’re in my imagination, or it’s a cultural “Uncle” Paulie, “Uncle” Silvio Dante, and “Uncle” Tony Soprano situation.

Then, I get the bigger question: “How is that possible?”

It’s difficult to answer that in a few punchy lines or a five-minute blog because there are so many threads to pull on. It’s going to take a series to get to the root. I don’t have a clear response yet because a proper answer deserves depth but also, until recently, I hadn’t really thought about the “how” question all that much.

Like young people across the planet with dreams that don’t seem to fit in with the sleepy streets they come from, I never appreciated the area I grew up in and was just another one of those bored teens who drove around with friends for entertainment and couldn’t wait to get away from small-town living, knowing who was behind the wheel of most cars we passed, stopping at the same gas station every day, and recognizing every face inside.

Once I started traveling and eventually moved to Europe, I turned and looked back at my rural Michigan upbringing from 4000 miles and could see just how culturally unique it was.

Fully immersing in a new country with a different language, customs, food, and history, getting invited to a “witch burning” in the Czech Republic, seeing the Semana Santa…



Mitchell Peterson

Freelance writer who spent nine years outside the US, currently in rural America writing the Substack bestseller 18 Uncles.