This I Believe

Michael - Santa Rosa, California
Entered on October 26, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family

And You Don’t Get to Choose ‘Em

I believe that you cannot escape from your family. From the beginning, their influence literally runs in your blood. Now I am not saying that everybody is constantly bumping into their relatives. Obviously, many people live independently, and some people do not know their families at all. But I am constantly amazed at the ironic fashion in which family members unexpectedly pop up. I feel there must be some form of cosmic connection between a person’s energy and that of their kin.

Sometimes, things like divorce cause a divergence in this energy, but not in my case. Both of my parents were born and raised in Sonoma County, in northern California. They moved to Chicago, where I was born, before living in Virginia, Connecticut, Maryland, and Los Angeles. I moved out on my own when I was eighteen. By that time I had two younger sisters, and my parents were divorced. After my residential emancipation, I moved to Sonoma County of my own accord. A few years later, my father moved up to build a house, my mother moved back to be closer to her parents, and my youngest sister came up to attend the Junior College, all in the same month! By now, I have a fifty-fifty chance that any exit off Highway 101 will take me “home.”

Sometimes, family need not even be present to influence you. My father moved from the farms of Sonoma County to the firms of big business, and became head of a faucet company called Price Pfister. One of his biggest customers was a major retail chain, and so my dad had to meet with their CEO in Atlanta. When my dad asked about problems the company was having, the executive told him about a woman in Santa Rosa preventing one of their new stores from being built where her trailer park stood. There was a local newspaper clipping depicting the event, and who should be staring back at my father but his grandmother, my great-grandmother, chained to an oak tree! While the CEO may never have heard the punch-line, my dad’s other customers sure had a good laugh.

Sometimes, family impacts you without your knowledge. For example, in a story from Marijuana for Dopes, the author describes buying red, Indian hashish from a guy who conducted business with a basket dangled from a third-story window. The author stashed this rare find away for Christmas consumption, and shortly after, one of his brothers died in India. Later, over lunch, the author hears about how a friend sent money to the brother in India, paying for three bricks of fine, red hashish. The friend then sold the bricks to somebody who used a basket dangled out of a third-story window. It turns out that the author’s red Christmas hash was actually hand-pressed by his brother in India just before he passed away! So every Christmas, the red hashish comes out – in celebration of the season, and of the sibling.

While a birth is cause for celebration, it is not a celebration solely for the newborn. It is a celebration of the whole; of the family whose continuation and culmination gets swaddled and snuggled, of ancestors long past into time immemorial, and of the affirmation through these ancestors of connection with all living beings. These connections stretch out, like strands in a rope; twisting together into the cord of one’s life. If one string is plucked, the others will vibrate. Yet these bonds are nothing to fight against. They push you towards where you are going, and show you where you have been. They anchor you in a sea of humanity. Wherever the blood flows within, there too shall be the spirit’s kin. Or so I believe.