Watching locals dance traditional Greek dances in the village square on Friday night, I point to a giant sycamore tree with the year "1812" carved into it, the one my great-grandmother Irene definitely danced and sat and flirted under when she was a teenager, and say to my brother:
"I want to feel rooted to the ground, no matter where I am or what I am doing, like that tree."
He nods sagely, knowing what I mean, as I claim this intention for the next while of life.
Earlier that day we'd day-tripped to the mountain town where my great-grandfather had grown up, across the island from where his bride-to-be sat under that tree; a place called Agiasos that is famous for its handmade ceramics.
For their home in Maine, my brother chose a mug shaped like a creepy man's mustachioed face; my sister-in-law chose a plate with a pomegranate on it; and I chose a pitcher in the shape of a rooster with a long, thin neck.
Mine, of course, was a profoundly impractical purchase; and a bit out of character, for someone who rarely invests in material things.
And -- even as I smiled and bargained and handed over my euro -- it was one I was certain would evoke the furrowed brow of confusion, tinged with mild disapproval, from my mother and/or sister, the moment I showed it to them.
But I didn't care. It was weird and unique, and it brought me joy, and I wanted it -- for a future home that I don't even own yet.
On the car ride back, I happily texted a photo of the rooster to Bruce, who responded immediately from the other side of the world that he knew me too well to fall for what was "clearly" a joke.
I frowned and texted that it was too late, the deal was done.
Still he refused to believe me, demanding photographic evidence of me holding the rooster in my arms, insisting again and again that I must be pulling his leg.
Thus, within an hour of purchase, my mood began to sour in a familiar way.
For although I am a person of strong convictions, I've always been a little insecure about my taste in material things.
Mostly I find material things irrelevant, and can live happily with the bare minimum (as evidenced by surviving on whatever fits inside a backpack or four bicycle panniers).
Mostly I like to think that I see through the trap of consumerism, preferring to seek meaning and satisfaction elsewhere...
But sometimes I admit to feeling left out of a big game that MUST be really fun...
Because why ELSE would everyone be playing it ALL the time?
And maybe the reason I don't care... is because I'm just not good at the game?
Of course, logical Jessica knows this is absurd. But it's why I tend to feel irrationally bothered, whenever someone makes it clear that my taste is on the strange side.
So in my mind, the rooster purchase was symbolic...
Representing the decision to shed an old insecurity, and own a small piece of my strangeness.
And yet, all it took was a few incredulous text messages to have me quietly resolving to stick the bubble-wrapped package straight into my carry-on bag the moment I got home, burying it in clothes before anyone could think to ask what I got, and potentially try to sell it on eBay.
And this is what it's like, isn't it?
Whenever we attempt to grow -- we make a bold move, and then take a step back.
We dare to expand or be seen in some way; and then immediately feel the need to protect ourselves from whatever exposure comes with it.
I considered this through dinner, and before we left the table I showed a picture of the rooster pitcher to my mother.
Sure enough, her brow furrowed in precisely the way I knew it would.
And, despite myself, I chuckled.
One day, I will pour chilled white wine for my dinner guests from the neck of that ridiculous rooster.
And when I do, I will remember not only my Greek heritage, but also this promise to myself:
To be shame-free in how I get my kicks from the world.
To stand rooted and firm in all my strangeness, like that sycamore tree.
Which oddness of yours will you celebrate this week?