Don’t Change – An impossible request of family 4

“Don’t change a hair for me, not if you care for me.”*

When you live away from your family-of-birth and only get home to see them once a year or so, you hope that all the things you love about them will be the same when you see them.  This was my wish for my Thanksgiving visit home.

You want the loud laughter and the recounting of family stories, even the ones that feature you.  You hope  the cousins will sing songs from the church you grew up in and imitate the singers and the classic shouts of particular church members who you remember so fondly.

You want your Mom to be as fabulously beautiful and appointed as she has always been.  You want your brother to be the stalwart, kind and dependable man you treasure.  You want your sister to be as bossy and directive as she has always been. (Everybody thinks she is the older sister because of her bossiness.)

You want your younger aunts (who are more like cousins) to be as funny, boisterous and loud as they’ve been your entire life.  You want your jewel of an aunt to have on another of her fabulous sparkly accoutrements – hat, jewelry, sweater and or wig.

Don’t change a hair for me not if you care for me.

The core of these things remain, I’m happy to report.  But change, change happens, of course.   It is impossible to stop.  Some of the changes are incremental and more visible because you don’t see them daily:

  • The physical change of a niece growing into a thoughtful and accomplished teen in a young woman’s body who drives now!  
  • The slight bend of your still fabulous and fashionable mother’s shoulders and twisting of her fingers by arthritis.

  • The graying hair among those family members who do not heed the clarion call of Miss Clairol or Dark ‘n’ Lovely.

Other changes are dramatic:

  • The change in bodies from lithe and lovely to bloated and leaden.
  • The transformative weight loss of the heavy brother into a sleek, stylish man.
  • The continued signals of mental illness that is devouring the personality of the once brightest light in the cousins.
  • The calamity of divorce breaks apart the bonds of a couple and thrusts their children into a landscape of ever-changing allegiances and alliances confusing to everyone.
  • The death of a matriarch and a beloved uncle who strong personalities, opinions and ability to bring everyone together are lost.

There are positive changes:

  • New & rediscovered love and marriages, which the family expands to embrace.
  • Cousins doing well, traveling well beyond the original geographic strictures of the family and doing good work.
  • The quiet ones now raising their voices to be heard (and having something to say).

It is good to come home to the people who made me, who are the foundation upon which all that I am was built.  In many ways, they have changed little – I am comforted by this.  In other ways they (and () have changed so much.  Older, frailer, but mostly unbowed.

We are family with our long memories, unrelenting love, highly visible but unspoken fissures and secrets, legendary lore, and grand gossip. 

Don’t change, don’t change, promise we won’t  change before we meet again.

(*Lyric from “My Funny Valentine” by Lorenz Hart)

About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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