We are not our parents’ children. I don’t mean youths, I mean the angry millennials, the harried newlyweds, the pulled-in-a-million-directions 30 and 40 year olds, the I’ve-raised-my-own-kids for Pete’s-sake! Folks.
We are progeny, sure. But while we might- on paper, perhaps – be the men and women our parents hoped us to be, in our reflections, quite often, we don’t recognize their expectations of us in our post-shower-haze covered mirror. The agendas they instill in us, their hopes and dreams for us they intimate and outright state, are more than ghosts that haunt us, lurking in-between dreams and awakening. They are fully realized suitcases we travel with: packed with memories, repeated mantras, selected bits of our parent’s histories (burnished and buffed like armor) and itineraries we had only the vaguest input in developing, often based on traits we began showing when we were still toddlers.
Putting down that suitcase can feel all at once like abandoning a puppy on the side of a highway and as though we’ve got only seconds to run from a bomb we failed to diffuse. It can wander back, stealthy, a cat grown bored with exploration, to be let back in. Our suitcases can shrink and grow suddenly, without warning, manifesting in the middle of romantic interludes and job interviews. It can grow light or heavy, cold or warm during holidays – someone else’s expectations of us balanced with the fruit salad or poinsettia.
I can offer that I carry one too: It is bright yellow, in my imagination, made of terry cloth and parquet tiles, charmeuse and bright blue embroidery thread. Most days, I believe it to be stored on the top shelf of the closet where we store important documents – taxes, birth certificates and infrequently used outerwear. Most days, it stays there, taking up about half the shelf: only occasionally surfacing in my car, in conversations and always at HR Block and the post office. It isn’t too heavy, but it’s awkward to carry and never goes with my attire.
In theory, it helps to identify it: to imagine your own luggage. If only to recognize it when your actions feel buffeted by wind or guided by bowling bumpers. A mental: ‘oh, this is because my folks always said ___’. In truth, even this exercise is (and this is the peculiar part) POTENTIALLY guided by lineage. Sometimes, the case is invisible, weightless, so ingrained in my spirit and self that it is as much me as my sense of smell or love of Indian food. And in that moment, my actions – guided or not – are my own.