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Family From a Safe Distance
Family is who gives you cards
in sealed envelopes
so if you hold it close to your lips
and breathe in,
you can maybe smell your grandmother's perfume.
Family is who sends presents so neatly wrapped
like pre-packaged kisses,
with red tissue paper and crinkly bows
that get thrown away so fast,
before you really have time to look at it,
and you miss it before it's gone.
I don't like opening presents,
I just like them to sit there all wrapped up forever like that
with silver ribbons bows candy cards hearts kisses
like comforting words that stay forever.
I don't like opening presents,
because what's inside is usually
not as good as the pretty and deceitful packaging,
and I like lying.
Family is who pauses on the other line,
who clears their throat on the answering machine,
who takes a few days to get back in their emails.
Family is who loves unconditionally,
from a safe distance.
Family is who looks the other way,
snapping pictures of you and your girlfriend,
arms linked and in beautiful dresses and curled hair
before the dance and writes
“Jaden and her friend,” as an explanation on the back,
Family is who sends boxes of food when your household is starving,
ramen noodles and boxed potatoes and a little money on the side,
tucked safe away at the bottom with no note.
But that $20 brings so much relief,
it brings apples and soy milk and vitamins.
Family is who sends love in the form of letters,
gifts is pretty wrapping,
pictures with names on the back,
and sometimes phone calls,
but not in the form of physical contact.
Family is who knows how bad it gets
slim paychecks running out,
holes in the wall,
pets getting killed when you were watching,
but won't drive up to rub your shoulders
or catch your tears in their sweaters.
Family is who wishes happy Christmas,
happy New Year,
but not happy Sunday morning,
normal tea-and-newspaper days
waking up without brushing your teeth.
Family is someone to dress up for,
speaking excitedly and rushing around,
“Hurry up and clean the house, the family is coming!”
Like an approaching tidal wave, something to revere and fear.
Family is memories of
nice cars, swimming pools, and cigarette smoke,
throaty laughs, Sunday cartoons, and country cooking.
Family is an excitement
reserved for holidays and marked dates,
like starting your period
receiving grade cards
and summer vacation,
something to cross your fingers and
wish to come sooner.