For Christmas this year I was able to put together a little booklet for my family members with pieces of my writing-- a collection of stories i had written about my family over the past semester. For the two or three of you who aren't members of my family/haven't read these, I'll post some over the next few days. so here is a look into "growing up carroll" :)Family is never quite as beautiful as when you are leaving it. I think this is mostly because, when driving away from mom-dad-brother-sister you realize who you are. To see their faces becoming blurred in the distance only makes you realize how defined your own face is in the review mirror.
This happens for me particularly when the departure occurs after a holiday. Holidays are nostalgic times for most anyway, filling the mind with previous smells and melodies. But for me, when pulling away after a Christmas celebration, I don’t remember the smell of sugar cookies or ham roasting or the twinkling lights on the tree—I remember the faces of my family.
My mom’s face when I showed up to her Christmas cantata at church. We had been arguing about whether or not I needed to be in attendance. I argued that my open-gym practice was more of a necessity and that I simply wouldn’t have time to change and make it to the church. She soon fell silent and I left for the gym. While shooting I began to recall all of the things my mother had attended and supported me in over the years and I left a little early in order to make it on time. I’ll never forget the moment she saw me, sweatpants and t-shirt in the back row, and tears came to her eyes. Being supportive is not a one way street in a family, and leaving reminds me of this.
My dad is waving from the front step and I catch in his face a memory of Christmas morning when I was 10. Having no source of income for myself besides an imagination I had found a scrap piece of wood somewhere around the house. On it I painted, in the best handwriting I could muster, someday I’ll find my prince, but you’ll always be my king. Dad tries to be macho but in this moment I saw him soften and become proud in the same instant. It is this face I see each time I leave.
My older sister and I would always sleep together on Christmas Eve. We would giggle and whisper into the wee hours and wake each other up moments later to check the time. The moment she said I do I instantaneously recalled all the nights we had spent tucked away under her bed sheets, and as she left for her honeymoon I realized this was over. And yet each time I leave her we hug, and in that embrace I feel the warmth, as if we are sharing a blanket once more.
It is in these departures, in the absence of family, that I feel them all the more. I know I am made up of these people—that the same blood courses through my veins. I know I have to remember, each time I leave.
I’m getting married soon and I know this will be another type of leaving—a more permanent one. I will no longer have a toothbrush at home or winter clothes stored in the basement. But I know, as I walk down the aisle beside my father, he will have that look on his face, as if I had just handed him another creation of mine. I know in the front row my mom’s eyes will fill with tears, as she is here to support me once more. And I know that my sister will be waiting at the altar, and I will stand next to her and have the courage to say I do because of late night whispers and stolen covers.
I now pronounce you man and wife…
And as I walk away with my husband I know my family will never be quite as beautiful.