(I, Kikita, wrote this post.)
If you're Cuban (or any other type of Latino) I'm sure you know about New Year's Eve Traditions.
This year I decided that, since I was now 26, I would do things MY way. First, I did all of the classic traditions on Miami time. When it was midnight in Miami (9pm here) I was listening to a Cuban song, eating my grapes, toasting the New Year (which is always "El año que viene, estamos en Cuba" – "Next year, in Cuba"), running money out to the mailbox, dumping the water and leaving my suitcase outside.
At midnight California time I was out salsa dancing.
The whole night felt magical.
Two weeks later, I get a call from my grandmother.
"Kikita, quieres acompañarme a Cuba?"
(Kiki, would you like to accompany me to Cuba?)
That is where it started.
For as long as I can remember, I have been dying to know in person the "patria" that I hold in my heart, but I am also desperate to see that land free.
Abuela's invitation had stirred up some very deep things for me.
The last time I had talked to Tio Timbiriche he asked me when I was coming to Cuba. Without giving it much thought, I told him "before I turn 27." (I was 25 at the time and there was no real chance of me getting there anytime soon.)
I will be 27 in June.
How I finally made my decision was I realized that a quintessential part of being Cuban is that we put family first. I couldn't very well tell my Abuela (who will be 96 on February 23rd) that she and her siblings would never be under the same roof again because my politics were against it. Politics before family?
Maybe in some cases, but not this one.
Her OLDER brother (Tio-Abuelo Fernando) will be 99 in May and he is going. They have 3 younger siblings in Cuba whose ages are: 93, 90, & 87.
If the nonagenarians are up for it, how can I not be? =D
My big, fat Cuban family has been very supportive of my trip, for which I am incredibly thankful.
I bought tickets for Abuela and me to go to Miami where we'll stay for a few days before we leave for Cuba.
Just as I was getting used to the idea of traveling to Cuba with Abuela and Tio-abuelo Fernando, I realized there would be one other person traveling with us . . . Papi.
Do you know the amount of paperwork involved with transporting ashes to Cuba? Neither did I.
There is no doubt that this trip is going to be incredibly emotional, but I'm saving that. Right now, I have been just taking care of business. I've had to stay detached in order to get everything done. So, please forgive my seeming irreverence when I describe what happened next . . .
I was trying to be sensitive to Mami and my tias when it came to discussing specifics so I was doing as much as I could without them.
Finally, I told my Dad, "I don't want to bug, Mami, but I'd feel better if I had Papi's ashes at my house. I'd hate to be doing all this work and then not know where he is . . . I would look for them myself, but I have no idea where to start or what they look like. I never saw them and it's been 10 years."
Dad is so helpful. I really am grateful for him. He said he knew exactly where to look and as soon as we had gotten my car smogged and bought me a color printer, he'd find them for me.
I was installing the software for the printer while Dad was looking in the hall closet where holiday decorations, cleaning supplies, extra toilet paper and lots of extra silverware are usually kept. I heard him make a sound that rang of "I think I found it!" He carefully and solemnly brought the white box to the table, opened it, and pulled out . . . a ceramic pumpkin???
A Halloween decoration instead of ashes. How ironic and absolutely hilarious.
He continued his search and came out with another white box.
We were both much less serious about the whole thing. I did the honors this time and found a tin and inside the tin . . . "Ok, 1 dead Papi. Perfect. Thank you. Can you put my printer in my car?"
Tomorrow, Saturday, February 13th is Papi's 99th birthday.
It will also be the 49th year of my family's exile from Cuba.
Somehow, I have been honored with the task of taking the exiles home.
We leave for Miami on February 24th, the day after Abuela's 96th birthday. We leave for Cuba on March 1st. We get back to Miami on March 8th and we'll be back in California on March 10th.
Yes, I will take pictures. Yes, I will tell you all about it.
Yes, I am a little nervous. Yes, I am extremely excited.
And, yes, I can't quite believe it either.
Felicidades, Papi, and Happy Valentine's Day.