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

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With Uncle Jeff

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

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Mitchell Peterson

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