Exatcly 25 hours after the holiday season is over and as I struggle to write my resolutions , I reflect on the amount of time I spent on skype and facebook this past week. My immediate family (parents and sibblings) live in Colombia and I spend most of the holidays with an uncle and his children. My uncle's mother (my grandma) and his sibblings are also in Colombia. Usualy for christmas and new years we are all trying to call our respective families; with all the advances in social media we use facebook and skype a lot.
In previous years we have made the prayer before midninght together, part of the family united in my grandma's house in Barranquilla and the other part gathered here in Queens. They hold hands, we hold hands and skype makes us believe we can all hold hands. This year I realized the value of this interaction and of technology for our emotional lives. My aunt and ucle who are undocumented and cannot travel outside the US rejoice in this virtual sharing with their family back home. I, in the other hand, feel torn by the whole cross-country split holiday season because it reminds me of the ambiguity of the concept of home.
Last year I spent the holiday season in Colombia with my mother and sisters. I was happy but I also missed my uncle's house and my comfort zone. It was great to be back "home" yet I missed my home in New York and the snow and my girlfriend. Here in New York we try to preserve as many traditions as we can, we make natilla, pasteles, buñuelos, etcetera. We dance Colombian music and drink aguardiente. We pray before the meal, we thank God for the year. The one thing we can not do for New Years eve is to burn an Año-Viejo, a stuffed doll, the size of an adult that is to represent the old year being burned as it comes to an end, and with it all the bad things that may have happened. If we try to pull this one trick in Queens I am sure we'll get arrested.
The time I spent chirstmas in Colombia I also took some American traditions with me. I wrapped the gifts, placed them under my sister's miniature tree and did not let anyone open them until midnight. I brough candy canes and peppermint covered chocolates which they hated.
I have previously tried to define the concept of home for people like me who live away from their birth home: immigrants, expatriots, self-exiled people. I have yet to find an answer to what our real "home" is or to whether we have two homes or no home. What I find saddest about this dual-home/no-home dynamic is that there is no solution or hope of change. I thought that when I received my green card and I could travel back home my heart would not be split in two countries. However, that did not happen.
We have established a home in this country and most of us are happy here, however the home we left will forever be in out hearts. We yearn for what we are missing as much as we are grateful for what we have. We hug each other and toast, then turn to skype and wave. We tear when we see grandma tearing on the screen, and then smile and pray she lasts another year. The double-homeness can be particularly taxing during the holiday season.
As january begins, I reflect and wonder whether anyone has found a way to reconcile the feelings of calling two places home while never really feeling at "home". Or if all of us, like me, just hurt year in and year out and cope as best we can.
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