Photograph by Deepak Tolange
Maya Angelou wrote a collection of essays titled "Letter to my Daughter." In the opening essay, 'Home,' she writes,
"...that no one can ever leave home...
...that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears, and the dragons of home under one's skin...
...that we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we ever really do." (p.67)
Home is a place of foreverness. Home is a setting, a scene.
Family, the characters. Family in whatever forms and apparitions they occupy. Family as mom and dad asleep with the TV on; family as your younger brother that you can rewind and replay that single line from Friends with, and laugh and laugh and laugh and say nothing but "again," and laugh; family as the nonsense, as the understood; family as the lessons taught, and the lessons learned.
What makes family different from friends, acquaintances, lovers, co-workers, the barista you see every morning, the grocer that makes friendly conversation while your 'AUTHORIZATION' is 'IN PROGRESS', the football player, the ticket taker, the preacher at church and the devil on the corner what makes family different is nothing.
Importantly, it is the nothing. It is no need for words on the 12-hour car drive. It is no need to say sorry that you couldn't afford Christmas presents this year (even though all your friends, cousins, and ex-boyfriend got one). It is not seeing one another and knowing they are there. It is not speaking for months and knowing exactly what they will say. It is life; it is having nothing if not for your family. It is death; it is having everything even without them there.
Like home, family is something that is built from within. It is an empty space that we fill with interactions, and as these interactions are nurtured, with relationships. Family is that 'nothing' connection that turns out to be everything we are made of, just like home is that 'nowhere' place that turns out to be everywhere we go.
Maya Angelou never had a daughter. She gave the world her shadows, her dreams, her fears and her dragons. My mother had me. She gave me a book by Maya Angelou.