El Cuarto de Tula

Amy here.

Since these fires have started, I've wondered what it would be like to get THE CALL.  Being the cocky girl I am, I knew that I would not be faced with that moment.  I had no idea what I would take.  It wasn't going to happen . . .

Yesterday while I was at work the phone rang,  it was mom, "Mija, you have to go home.  You're being evacuated.  I'll send you the email."

I sat there in shock for a full minute. 

The first conscious thought I had when I heard I had to evacuate was about Tula and her vela.  Does that make me more Cuban?  Or just a music lover?

I finally got up and left.  The whole drive home I was thinking, "but what will I take?" 

I had no idea.

I let everyone I thought might care know what was happening to me . . . "Do you need help packing?"

Packing?  What would I pack?


When I got home, I stood in the doorway of my room and looked around. 
What in this room could I absolutely not live without?  What were my memories?  That was when it hit me.  I had used my memories to make my room my own. 


So . . . take apart my room?  Take apart my life?  Disassemble my memories?  If I took it apart, then it wouldn't be the same.  Everything on my walls I put there with a purpose.  I remember each moment when something new made it to the wall.

I remember the day I was very sick and my dad came over to put up shelves for me.  So, should I take the shelves?

Everything my eyes landed on generated that general thought process.  "I remember when I got that.  So . . . should I take that?"

I thought about all the memories I save so that one day I can share them with children or grandchildren or new friends.  "See this baseball?  I caught it at the game we went to for my 23rd birthday.  The score was 2-3.  Wierd, huh?" 

Or this Legolas:


My dad knew how much I adored Lord of the Rings and one day when I came home, Legolas was standing in my room.  He scared the crap out of me.  Now he's like a guardian angel.  Can I leave him behind?

In the end, one of my aunts who lived nearby called to let me know that it was not a mandatory evacuation.  We didn't have to leave.  It was close, but not that close.  I sighed with relief, did a load of laundry and went to bed.

But now I am plagued.  It was my moment of truth, and I choked.  (pun intended)

I stood in the same place my abuelos and countless other Cubans had stood.  That place where it was time to take only what I needed and I failed.  I felt like a failure.

Someone asked me the other day, "How can you miss somewhere you've never been?"

The question is haunting me.  Just like the other one I could not answer.  I had talked it over with a Cuban who had just arrived and he told me that the minute I set foot on my homeland I would be happy.  He understood.  But he had been there.  His longing for his homeland was genuine.  What is mine?

I read a poem once that talked about missing neighbors they'd never met and drinks they'd never tasted.  I remember thinking, "Finally!  Someone else who has never been there feels as I do."

I try to explain it, but can't find the words.  How do you explain the longing for a patria you've never even set foot on?

This has all left me wondering how Cuban I really am.  Version 2.0?  I don't know.  Maybe I'm just a white girl who can dance . . .