Albert Wendt’s The Black Rainbow follows the journey of a man who must, despite strong efforts to thwart him, discover his family and prevent harm. While this “game” to locate his family begins like just a risky game of monopoly, the game develops into something deeper, into something more life threatening and therefore more life changing. The development of the game produces a change in the man physically and mentally just as it affects him emotionally: he loses weight and changes his physical appearance just as he finds out new things about himself and about his family’s importance. Although he previously viewed his wife as a woman who cooks well and keeps him healthy, the man now begins to see his wife as an independent element to his life and to his history, as someone with whom he has made a beautiful life: “It was love, Margaret and I agreed. We couldn’t bear to be apart…It was beautiful, all of it—the sex, the talking, the eating, the living and working together” (115). He also thinks more of his kids, of their strong points and of what music they love and how their personalities differ. The searcher, through his journey to find his family, really “finds” them in the sense that he remembers the little things that he loves about each independent family member and sees how each contributes collectively to the whole.
One does not have to put his or her self in a life-threatening position like the searcher’s to recognize a family’s meaning. A simple travel or journey can allow one to reflect upon the family that he or she misses and why. A common life journey that affects one both physically (physical displacement) and mentally is the move to college, the move to a lifestyle seemingly independent from previous familial bonds. Even if one moves only 45 minutes away from home, the changes are inevitable: the feelings of both loss and gain, the desire for home amidst the desire for change, the recognition of one’s independence as well as dependence. Viewing one’s family from an outside perspective sheds light onto the individual contributing elements and allows the “traveler” to see what was there all along but never actually seen. Instead of just missing family dinners or missing the dependence on one’s parents for last minute cash or clean laundry, one begins to miss the individual people themselves, with their quirky habits and differences in language and humor that have been there all along.
The college experience for me was just as eye-opening as the searcher’s journey for his family in that I have come to realize the importance of each of my family members and have come to see them as real, independent people rather than just my family. Instead of taking advantage of the fact that they are family members and will always be there for me, I can now say that I try to treat them each with more respect and actually appreciate their company. The simple transition to Loyola created the separation that allowed my sister and I to become greater friends that can both confide in each other and welcome our similarities and differences. Instead of just relying on my mom to run errands and schedule appointments for me, I actually talk to her and exchange advice with her and learn that there is way more to her life and to her personality that I ever would have noticed. And I now do not just call upon my dad for financial support but enjoy spending time with him and viewing the similarities between our life outlooks. Traveling really allows one to recognize the little things about one’s family, the little things that accentuate the differences of each family member as well as bring them all together. Returning to this “new” family after attending college or a long trip makes life that much more exciting in that it proves that even those things one takes for granted can provide endless life meaning and possibility.