My uncle passed away Oct. 18th, eight years to the day his daughter died, so I’m in Cali with my enormous maternal family.

People say that once you leave home you can never return, being that our experiences after leaving have buffered us about with such force that our round shape no longer fits into the square hole of our past.


When we return home, we create a wrinkle in the time-space continuum and immediately confront our past and present selves, while the faces have aged somewhat and the number of children inexplicably multiplied, everything and nothing have changed.

I believe this is why during times of adversity and grief we cling to the familiar and familial.

We gather and weather the storm. We laugh and overeat but this doesn’t detract from the gravitas of the occasion - it’s how we cope – which explains why the mood shifts the moment the hearse arrives.

My big mash-up of a family was no different. All smiles faded with a brisk rush of emotion as if our true purpose was suddenly evident.

I held up pretty well until the very end of the service, and then the dam broke triggering a domino effect with my aunt, mom, cousins, and the like in hot pursuit. I couldn’t hold it inside anymore, my iron spine bent.

Afterwards, we invited everyone back to my aunt’s house for dinner. There was more laughter, kids running about, the retelling of stories (most horribly embarrassing), and an ungodly amount of food and picture taking.

Oddly, this wrinkle in the time-space continuum when we’re simultaneously our present and former selves for a few precious moments in the company of our loved ones sustained us. Our roots don’t hold us captive; they’re our anchors so blown about by every gust of wind. But where dark storm clouds roll in and we find ourselves going under, our roots are a safe harbor, our connection to the familiar and familial.