This I Believe

Sawyer - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on June 26, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, question

Stuffing is More Than Just a Dish at Thanksgiving

Returning home, I thought, would be a rendezvous with fond memories. This was the first time I visited home after I had moved to Chicago where I now attend Columbia College. The uniqueness of my home and family is great inspiration for a future body of work as a filmmaker, a path which I have chosen to pursue.

The second time I visited home, however, I had the expectations of what I had learned at the time of my last homecoming; my home and the life I regularly shared with my family nearly three months ago is, and always has been, stuffed.

It took me until a second visit home, sarcastically, my “thanksgiving holiday,” to realize that not only are turkeys stuffed, but so is my former home, my family’s home. Thanksgiving holiday in Battle Creek, MI was exactly the whipped cream topping I needed on the three slices of pumpkin pie I would gorge down the night I arrived by train from Chicago. This “stuffing” was only the beginning of a long festive fattening up I would willingly endure while in Cereal City for the weekend. Every visit, from now on, would gain me four pounds for eating too much and one pound for stress. For four nights I would stay lodged in semi-suburban home improvement nightmare I called home.

Suburban life was what I had inconsequentially been raised to know, but my neighborhood was certainly no Levitt Town. My street, South Minges Road, was a little more than a half mile, what was left of a road split by the I-94 freeway. The South Minges I knew, the one the pizza delivery man would mistake for the other side of South Minges. My neighborhood was stuffed away, the way my family organized a cramped pathway through the hoards of who knows what we accumulated in our basement.

I can’t count how many times my mom would say, “It looks like a bomb went off down there,” and she’d argue hopelessly with my father to finish remodeling it, even after 12 years had past since we moved from Union City, MI.

I say Union City because we actually moved from a place of which I assumed few people had ever heard. My mother, father, and my five year-old self moved from a stuffed away farm yard lot on Locke road in a slight town called Sherwood.

I know now that the house my family lives in today is as crammed and claustrophobic as the old house in Union City – I mean – Sherwood, MI. On five wide acres, in Battle Creek, I played and roamed as a child. But indoors, I lived almost 13 years in a place pending with cracks and flaws in its walls. Though most were superficial, they existed among numerous other maintenance problems. Our cold horse- ranch-made-home remains hidden in the shade of great glooming oaks. This hellacious home is stacked with stuff, unnecessary piled layers of heart and head- aching annoyance.

This feeling bore into me with great consequence during my last visit, as it always had. Rat-packing was a trait I couldn’t let myself inherit. Sorting the good and the bad in life is a skill to be used to make better decisions than one’s parents. So to resolve this I have decided I will save myself the emotional distress and live life uncluttered.

A light bulb in my head flickered on during this Thanksgiving visit when I observed my family’s cereal cupboard, stuffed with forgotten, three quarter full boxes of cereal. Overbuying and overstuffing is what cramped me like a pickle in a pickle jar for 18 years, waiting impatiently for the twisting off of the cap. There were pop-tarts, gram crackers, some cream of wheat, and more wasted boxed products. Perhaps my parents thought: we can always buy more.

I rushed home for thanksgiving weekend only egging to leave once I arrived. In all the mentioning to my parents of their dire accumulation, I was met with defensiveness. I threatened I’d stop coming home until things were fixed to order. I wanted to return to Chicago in peace, knowing things would get better at home. Instead, I came back with more than I brought to Battle Creek, twin extra long sheets, wet wipes, and some rice crispy treats.