taffyNo one’s life has ever been turned around by an inspirational house sign. Those little plaques sporting quaint warmths like “Home is Where the Heart Is” and “Live, Laugh, Love.” I can’t imagine someone reading those handfuls of words and thinking, “Oh yeah, I never thought of it that way. Home is where the heart is.” Of course, you wouldn’t think Burger King could have that effect, but that’s what made Robert Downy Jr. decide to turn his life around, so you never know.

But that was the sort of thing Aunt Jojo loved. The plaques, not Burger King.

She died the summer after my freshman year of college. She didn’t ever seem as old as she was, never let on that she’d been steadily sick since her late fifties. She was twelve years older than my dad, her brother, and my parents were pretty old when I was born as it was.

She wasn’t a coddler, but was a comfort. You never felt unsafe with her, and the most mundane things would stick in your head as memories.

She called things what they really were, to an uncomfortable extent. She called the kitchen “the heart”. She called church “home”. She called people “souls”.

We were packing up all her things in boxes to move into storage. Ordinary things. Boxes labeled “books,” “dishes,” “electronics,” and one labeled “memories.” Inside that last one were picture frames, an album, and some letters.

But packing the rest, the books, the handful of toys, even a musty and scratchy embroidered pillow, I couldn’t help but want to put them in that last box.


The box wasn’t big enough.

My Aunt Jojo was a sentimental person. She was taffy. Sweet and sticking to you.

So I took the marker and relabeled every box the way she would have:



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