The family force

Mitchelle De Leon, Reporter

By Mitchelle De Leon



At eight o’clock on most nights, my father taps my door and announces, “Time to eat.” We then heat our dinner, which my mother prepares hours earlier. My brother groans, suggesting that we should have eaten by seven. My father turns on the warm lights directly above the table, illuminating our once peach-colored carpet, now a shade of gray. I place matching glassware and silverware on our wooden, thrift store table. Then we eat.

My family holds one rule sacred:  We always eat together. This rule comes with the assumption that eating together strengthens our familial bond. But due to her night-time job, my mother leaves a gaping hole in our routine. She acts as the joker, conversation starter and non-stop chatterer. Without her, that familial bond does not even exist. Without her, my father, brother and I face the reality of three distant individuals sharing a meal for the sole reason of following an established routine, one that brings both monotony and stability.

Long ago, after unspoken deliberations, we had concluded that words risk arguments and misunderstandings. Conversations lead to abrupt endings. Therefore, silence engulfs the dining room.

This kind of silence demands an audience. It is less awkward than the silence between two strangers who wake to find each other’s bare anatomies under the same blanket after a drunken soiree, but it does not comfort me like the silence between friends lying on mildly damp grass under glowing constellations.

Rather, this one behaves like a domesticated lion gnawing on one’s foot for affection. If one ignores the lion for too long, its teeth start breaking the surface of one’s skin. The beast within it tastes blood, and a tale too disturbing to tell ensues. It haunts us past the dining room. In long drives in a car with a broken stereo, in trips to Home Depot, its pulse thuds, and its breath chills any signs of fraternal and paternal warmth.

To relieve ourselves from further discomfort during dinnertime, we use the antidote to all things dull and quiet:  entertainment, namely movies. By pressing the “On” button of a remote control, the cacophony of the television and clashing utensils wafts the tension past our consciousness, filling the gap between us with the illusion of contentment but without addressing whatever issues we face.

In those moments, the soundtracks and dialogues captivate us. The unpleasant parts of our history escape us as we laugh, hold back tears, jump in excitement and shock and gasp in horror. Movies unite us. In fact, movies are part of our history.

Whenever someone asks me of my favorite movie, I always respond with “Star Wars,” not because of the movies’ quality or whatever wisdom I have gained from them, but because of the experiences the three of us share through those movies. When George Lucas released the first of the six movies, which we now call “A New Hope,” in 1977, I picture my father as a 15 year-old experiencing the childish awe that also struck me when I first watched the movie as a child in the ’90s.

I recall clapping and hollering with my father and brother when Yoda drew his light saber to battle Dooku in “Attack of the Clones” then proceeded to fight in a way best described as “badass.” John Williams blared into our ears, likely leaving us impaired. But at least when we’re deaf, we can partly blame it on his brilliant soundtracks. Together, we would sink in our seats when a badly burned Anakin finally became Darth Vader in “Revenge of the Sith” in 2005. Although we had been waiting for that transformation for many years, the end signaled our return to reality.

Silence uncovers reality.