Odyssey 2006 Day 6

September 9th, 2006

Valparaiso, Indiana: Visiting family on my father’s side, and I am finding it to be a bittersweet experience. I’m delighted because I see precious people, hear uncensored stories about my dad, and feel the weird pleasure of my own lifetime of memories of this place telescoping. I remember being a toddler here in memories that have an oddly photographic quality – they are still rather than in motion, in vibrant color, but often stripped of emotional content by time. I “remember” my dad being a little boy and a young man here from stories and photos. I remember coming here from far away for my grandparents’ funerals, and I “remember” these same funerals quite differently from the stories that other people, people who were grown-ups at the time, tell about them. When I’m sad, it’s because of the distance that our families build into their infrastructures. I see my dad and his four brothers creating their lives half a continent apart – they all get along really well, but they can go a decade without seeing each other. And, I see the potential for the same thing happening with my brothers and sisters. There are five of us too, and we’re spread out from Connecticut to Montana to Alaska. I see some of my siblings once a year, but I went four years without seeing my older sister whom I adore. Part of me thought/thinks such distance is unfortunate but unavoidable. But part of me knows that we’re replicating a family pattern. We’ve chosen to prioritize geography and individuality over the kind of deep connection that can only come from sharing the details, big and small, of each other’s lives lived one day at a time. I’d like to think that I could change if I wanted to; but I know I would never be happy living in Montana or Alaska, and I can’t imagine my family coming to live in California where Sam and I hope to settle.

The woman who checked us out of our hotel room had short, spiky dyed black hair, pale skin, a pierced eyebrow, dark eye makeup, and a bar code complete with tiny numbers tattooed prominently on the inside of her forearm. Why did she strive for an unconventional look (relatively speaking), only to invalidate the very concept of individuality with such a pithy, succinct, and permanent gesture? Was it ironic acknowledgement that individuality is always, already a commodity?

Entry Filed under: Odyssey

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