Kikita wrote this post about her recent trip to Cuba; depending on the kind of person you are you may or may not need tissues.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you thought, "Dang it! I should have taken more pictures!"?
I am having one of those moments.
At the time, I was worried about running out of battery power or something. At the time, tears were streaming down my face.
At the time, I didn't know how to capture the intensity of the where I was and what I was feeling.
It happened the way all great moments do, suddenly and without warning. It was not exactly part of the plan.
The Plan was to have a quick lunch at my cousin's house, stay only as long as was necessary to be polite, and then drive to Matanzas while it was still light out.
The Plan was proceeding perfectly. The lunch of chicken, veggies, black beans, white rice, and yuca was delicious.
Time was flying by between all the stories, laughter, and sheer joy of just being together.
That's when I asked if they knew where "Casa de la Loma" was. It was the last house my familiy lived in before they left. It was the house Mami always talked about. It was the house I'd tried to picture a thousand times in my head. It was the house whose address I knew by heart.
Still smiling and laughing, we all piled into the little rental car and traveled the few blocks over to Avenida de la Loma and stopped in front of #33.
I was rather dumb-struck and so I just took a picture of the outside number and stared wide-eyed.
My cousin (well, MAMI's cousin), Regina, rang the doorbell and asked the people living there (a French diplomat and his wife) if we could go inside. They were very sweet and showed us THE. WHOLE. HOUSE. Since Mami's cousins Lupe & Regina were with me, they told me whose room belonged to whom. I could barely speak. I couldn't stop my eyes from leaking. I kept forgetting to take pictures. I suddenly understood how "the house in the back" worked.
One of the most striking and intense things for me was being there with the primas who kept saying:
"I remember this courtyard being a lot bigger."
"I remember playing in this room with your Mom."
As we walked through the house, I pictured my mother as a five-year-old running down the long hallway. Or looking down from the top of the stairs. I kept trying to imagine what it would have looked like through her eyes.
As the tears of all that my family lost flowed down my face, there were new things that I began to wonder. I knew my mom's story, but she is the youngest of 6. There are 5 other stories I didn't know. 5 other stories. 5 siblings who lived in that house. 5 other points of view. (And that doesn't include my grandparents, I was just thinking about the kids and how they must have seen things differently because of their ages.)
I think that my impromptu visit to Casa de la Loma in the Nuevo Vedado, near the cemetary of Colón, looking over the river Almandares was one of the biggest moments that effected me on this trip. It changed my perspective of my family's story. It brought home to me just how tragic it all is. It has inspired me to seek out everyone else's story. And as I hear their stories, I don't have to imagine what the house looked like. I can see it. I was there.