We Were Perfect
Two Weeks Home After Twenty Years Away
I will forever have my parents to thank for making me interesting. Turns out, when you uproot your family and move them across an ocean in pursuit of better opportunities and a chance at the American Dream, you automatically instill in your child a sense of patriotism and a smidge of existential dread.
Leaving home the first time was hard. Sharp pointy rocks at the bottom of a cliff- hard. It broke my little eight-year-old heart to be surrounded by aunts and uncles who wept at the mere sight of me on the way to the airport in a tweety-bird backpack. The mere sight of their tear-stricken faces and the sound of their wails could be heard down the street when the last thing I saw before our ride turned the corner was my grandma and youngest aunt running and crying behind the car.
Sounds like a movie, but it's not. It's the reality of my life. You can guess, then, what it must have meant to finally get my green card after twenty years. Two decades' worth of Christmases, birthdays, and special events. Twenty winters and summers and springs and falls. My aunts and uncles had kids and their kids grew up, and I, the little darling with sass that they knew, all the while matured, married, and became 'mom' to two adorable children with too much hair.
Going back felt like a dream. Getting on that plane. Arriving at the airport. The janitor in the Costa Rican airport restroom must have thought I looked crazy with my goofy grin and chipper "hola!" Like- who in their right mind would be so happy to be in a public restroom? No one. We already talked about how I'm not in my right mind.
My husband, my children, and I walked through the throng of cab drivers offering a ride. I was looking up from my phone when my eyes immediately gravitated toward a familiar face, a face I'd only seen from the other side of a screen since I was a kid. My uncle. In a blink, he closed the distance between us and I was in his arms. He was shorter than I remembered. We cried and cried until I became aware of other faces I recognized, other voices I'd come to know, and then I was hugging and crying from person to person, astounded, heart wildin' and happier than I'd been for as long as I could remember.
At least ten times that day I thanked God for the invention of waterproof mascara.
How to describe the two weeks that followed? If I had to put numbers to it, I would say they were made up of 70% pure joy, 10% let's pretend we're not crying again, 5% rediscovering the reason for my childhood obesity, and 15% trying not to think of having to say goodbye. I'd be okay for some time. We'd make plans with the family, a cookout or a hike... and everything would be fine. That is until I would notice Tia Milly's hands were the same as mine, plump with dainty fingers. Another day I might notice how Tia Tina's hugs smelled like my mom's. I about lost it when I ran my fingers through my sixteen-year-old cousin's hair only to realize it was the same texture as that of my son's, and he would most likely grow up to look like said-cousin.
I arrived with a bucket list, I wanted to take a walk with my grandfather and harmonize with uncle Luis, I wanted to dance with uncle Teca and have a conversation with tia Tina... nothing too hard, just regular stuff that I'd been dying to do for twenty years. What I didn't expect were the cousins. My little cousins. The oldest of the ones I didn't get to meet until this trip was turning nineteen. The youngest was eleven. When I tell you these kids stole my heart... I was doing so good until I met them, got to know them, got to live life with them. Not once did I get bitter. Not once did I shake my fist at God for the time lost, but if I ever came close, it was when I found out how downright amazing my cousins were.
They were strong and sweet and courageous. Family-oriented, selfless, and kind, and the best (or worst) part? They didn't need me to become those things.
What sixteen and nineteen-year-old kids would change their 21-year-old quadriplegic sisters' diapers? My cousins, that's who. And their sister? (Also my cousin) Never walked a day in her life and yet always greeted us with the biggest smile you ever did see.
It wasn't just them. It was the oldest ones, too... the girl closest to my age who herded the younger ones like a mother hen but looked more like a Kardashian. The oldest guy with a wife and two kids close to the age of my own, rockin' the dad vibes while looking like lead singer John Cooper of Skillet.
My cousins probably thought I was weird for wanting to stay up the latest and wake up the earliest, but I didn't want to miss something as beautiful as their groggy faces in the morning for something as useless as sleep.
They wanted to take me places, talked of sightseeing, but I resisted. How could they know? All I wanted was to attend one of their school functions, to help them with their homework, and do their hair for prom? I wanted to be at their games, and bring the ice cream during their first heartbreak. I wanted to give them advice, get them out of trouble, and occassionally, get in trouble with them.
In the end, I got what I could, and I held on for dear life.
I got to see my family play with my children, joke with my husband, and exchange witty banter. I got to lay my head on my grandfather's shoulder, and hold hands with my grandmother, and hand my published novel to a member of each family unit. It took everything in me not to cover all of their faces with kisses every moment of every day, not to squeeze them every second, not to cry like a baby every time they had to go home. Each day with them was the same until it was time to go.
That day was different.
It went like this:
Crying. Group hug. 10 AM. Breakfast. Panic Attack. 11 AM. Last Hugs, Goodbye.
Airport. Boarding. Flying.
And once we were back among stars and stripes?
Days in a daze.
Sleepless nights, soaking my pillow in tears.
Video calls. Smiles. Laughs.
Heart put back together again.
I bet if you never loved someone so much it hurt just not being around them... if the mere mention of their name never brought you to your knees... unless your love was never adulterated, always pure, always beautifully messy, imperfectly amazing, you just wouldn't know.
You couldn't know:
Why I'd choose to have my heart broken time and time again rather than to forget that after twenty years,
for two weeks
they were mine...
And I was theirs.
And we were perfect.
About the Creator
D.S. is an Award-Winning Poet and Author of the Bestselling Young Adult Christian Novel, DREAMER.
Follow her on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook or visit her website: www.dsfwriter.com
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