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 . . .