The concept of home, of where and what home really is, has been on my mind a lot in these last few days.
As I have worked with neighbors and friends to help repair our community from devastating floods, my roots here in Tennessee have sunk deeper into the rich soil — further proof that indeed, nearly 19 years after I pulled into Nashville with my Hyundai and a cat named Hank, this is home.
Today though, I fly to my first home, Miami. I know that I will walk out of those sliding glass airport doors, feel the humid, familiar embrace,look up at the palm trees and know, too, that I am home.
Ironically, my mom will not be in Miami when I arrive because she has flown to her own first home in Oriente, Cuba — for the first time in 53 years. She has gone with her younger sister, my Tia Mirtha who often comments here.
They’ve been planning it for many months, dreaming of it for many years. They want to walk the streets they played on, enter the home they were raised in, bathe in the clear blue beaches of their childhood, of their longing.
My mom was 15, my aunt 11, when my grandfather pulled the family out of harm’s way and settled in Miami. The guerillas were fighting in the hills around their eastern town. Word was that lo que venia, no era bueno. My Papa was two years ahead of the actual Revolution.
My mom and Tia were nervous when I spoke to them Monday night, but thrilled out of their heads and hearts about the adventure before them.
I asked Tia how she was feeling:
“I don’t know what I feel, it is now like, do I really want to go? What will I find? How are the people there going to be? Right now, tonight, I have this butterfly in my stomach,” she wrote. “Es como cuando vas a tener el baby, que no sabes que te espera por que es algo nuevo y no tienes experiencia.
“I know that I will probably cry a lot. Can you really go home again? After 53 years?”
I always feel a mix of child-like joy and sense of melancholy when I return to Miami. It is so different from the one I grew up in, and yet, it is as familiar to me as my own face. I cannot imagine what the two hermanas are feeling right about now.
As I consider what “home”is, I realize I am fortunate to have lived in several places that have marked me, made me love them and even long for them at times. (Yes, even Jersey!). How lucky am I that I can go back whenever I want.
I haven’t had to wait 53 years to go home.
I am curious, do you live far from your “home”?