I haven’t been to Connecticut in over a year. I watch out the window as the plane descends over farmland and greenery and a line of bright yellow tractors and I think: OK, I’ve made it. I’m back.
It’s a particular feeling to return to the place of one’s birth. You feel at once a stranger and someone returning, triumphantly. You almost expect people to stop you in the nearly-deserted airport, to congratulate you on the journey you’ve just completed (both metaphorically and actually), to ask if they can touch your hand.
More people than we expected show up to the wake. I don’t know all their names and so my cousin and brothers whisper to me and I whisper to them if they look confused. My grandmother’s casket is closed. It was what she always said. I don’t want anybody to see me dead.
I don’t blame her.
It starts storming during dinner. The three little girls, my cousins, are all scared of thunder and lightning in an obligatory, resigned way. Like they just know they’re supposed to be. The rain hits sideways against the windows of the restaurant and the sky lights up in flashes of gold. My oldest brother and I drive to pick up his wife from the train station in Windsor Locks. It’s by a river. We get there as the train is pulling up. It looks exactly like a noir film, all mist and steam and bright headlights.
We stay up late every night. In the mornings there are tiny, kid-sized footprints on my parents’ hardwood floor. My father vacuums. My mother watches a soap opera by fast forwarding through all the boring parts. The sliding deck doors are covered in palm prints and fingerprints. The mornings go much too quickly. Time does not listen; time does not rest. So I don’t rest, either. I bounce around where everyone tells me to bounce around. By the end of it, I feel tired and worn out. A whirlwind of a trip, everyone says. I sort of smile, glossy-eyed. I have another cup of coffee and ignore the ulcer ache of too much stress and travel.
My little cousins hug me in turn, one after the other, and call me auntie and throw me balls and kiss my stomach, the highest part they can reach.
Do you remember me? I ask the littlest one.
She puts her nose against my neck and laughs laughs laughs.