“Reminding ourselves, over and over, how well we were doing in Queens was our ongoing balm; like ChapStick, we could apply as needed. It was as if we kept trying to convince ourselves that leaving had been our choice. Yet being better off financially didn’t soothe our longing, our souls” (101).
The word ChapStick, also known as moisturizer lip balm, refers to the name of a particular brand of lip balm and is, also known as, the act of applying moisturizer to cracked or sore skin, usually one’s lips. Chap, defined by Merriam Webster as, a crack or sore of the skin by exposure to wind or cold. Balms contain a variety of ingredients that may causes a tingling feeling. This sensation is actually protective layer of dead skin on one’s lips peeling off. Kenan’s metaphor suggest his family is needing to constantly apply moisturizer in order to peel of layers of dead skin, layers of painful memories, of those betrayals made by, once, trusted friends, therefore, convince themselves their cracks have healed. The connotation of using a specific lip balm brand, ChapStick, suggests that Kenan and, possibly his family, hold on to a specify memory that acts as a trigger for leasing other memories and emotions. The brand ChapStick is one of the original lip balm brands, so Kenan is suggesting, by choosing a original lip balm brand, had he not been forced to flee this beloved Bosina, he would have grown knowing the way of his culture, social structure, and a completely different man. ChapStick brand is the Kenan from Bosina, the original, thus enforcing the idea that “leaving had been our choice”. Also, choosing any other brand of lip balm would be a form of betrayal to himself and his country.
Lip balms are only a temporary fix. By using the word “soothe,” one is relieving or gently calming present pain. Kenan knows the importance of easing his pain but he also understands that his pain will follow him throughout his life. Being finically well of is, one type of pain reliever. It allows Kenan to hold a high status compared to the Srebs, for after the war, unemployment and property rates were high. Kenan’s longing for a multitude of things relating to the war and its events after are far to complex and almost out of reach to really heal his soul. With that understanding an appropriate theme for this quotation is the need to ease pain.