Twenty-six years ago my mother told me we were going to move to a new country and we were going to meet Santa Claus. I was on board with that plan so I helped her pack our bags without realizing that it meant leaving everything I knew to be life and my family behind. With two suitcases and all we could carry in our hands, we were welcomed by strangers at John F. Kennedy airport in New York where we started our new life in the United States.
In 2010, mom and I, along with my husband, and siblings, visited home for the first time since that life changing day. (Although thousands of miles apart and despite not physically seeing most of them, I’ve always had contact with my mother’s side of the family.) We had a large family reunion of uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents. We all shared great times during our visit, repeated our very sad goodbyes, and continued to keep in touch thanks to social media and WhatsApp.
On this same trip, I was reunited with all of my father’s side of the family whom I came in contact with through a google search, (Read about it here if you missed this post: http://bigsisterdiaries.com/2016/03/i-found-my-long-lost-family-on-a-google-search/ ) including my father, grandparents, aunts, uncle, cousin. I met my sister, and two brothers whom I had never met. We shared meals and quality time together during that trip. We said our tearful goodbyes and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.
In exactly four days, my mom and I will travel back home together- just her and I. This makes me nervous, and not only because being confined with my mother for several hours for the duration of the trip will truly test my patience (Haha…love you mom!).
Here’s what scares me:
- Leaving my rock behind: I’m traveling for 10 days without my husband which is the longest we’ve ever been apart. What if he hurts his back (again) while I’m away? Is he going to skip out on eating vegetables all together? How will I get through 10 days without him holding me? If we need one another through a tough day, we won’t be there for each other for the emotional support. This one is hard for me.
- Fear of starting over: Quality time with my loved ones six years ago is the only face to face contact I’ve had with most of my family members. I know me and I’m the type of person that needs to be around a person to open up, become comfortable, and truly be myself. Although I’ve built some level of comfort and put my guard down (with some family members more than others) I’m afraid that I’m starting over from scratch with some folks and my time there will not allow me to open up in time and build relationships in the limited time I have. Will they see my humorous side? I can be fun! I promise! This gives me a sense of pressure because I don’t know when I’ll get to see my family again. Time is valuable.
- Staying with family: For the first time ever, I’ll be staying with my dad’s side of the family. The plans are to be with them for the last six days of my trip. I realize I’m an adult and this shouldn’t scare me but it does. I’ve never spent this much time with them and they’re the ones I know the least.
Despite my worries, I’m actually really excited about a lot more things and hopeful that I’ll focus more on that.
What I’m looking forward to:
- Giving my godson a big hug: He moved back home eight years ago and I have missed out completely on his childhood. I love and miss him dearly and can’t wait to see him again.
- Spending time with my grandparents: I wasn’t fortunate enough to grow up with my grandparents. It scares me that their health isn’t at their best. I want to soak up any bit of wisdom I can get and kick back and have some great conversations with them. My grandmother is the pillar of our family and she means the world to me. Over the years while she visited we’d have one on one talks that I cherish and adored. I want to pick back up where we left off.
- Getting to know my family members: I keep up with most of my family members via social media. I smile at how alike I think a lot of us are. Our resemblance is unbelievable and our humor is a lot alike. My cousins were my friends as a child and I want to re-build that connection with them.
- Building my relationship with my siblings: I was looking for some gifts over the weekend to buy and bring them and recognize how much more I need to get to know them. I had such a difficult time trying to determine what they would like. There’s so much I need to know about them. I hope this trip will allow for major sibling bonding.
- Spending time in my childhood home: Most of my memories of living in Panama are of living in my grandmother’s house. I’m staying there for the first part of my trip and can’t wait to walk the property that was my home years ago. Eating mangos off the tree, washing clothes down at the creek and hanging them to dry on the clothes line with my great grandma, swimming lesson attempts in the lake, gathering eggs laid by our chickens, running barefoot with my cousins with homemade bows and arrows, and taking showers in the rain are just a few of the many memories that flood my brain. They all bring a huge smile to my face.
- Surprise experiences with my family: My dad’s side of the family has planned activities and they won’t tell me what they are. What I can safely guess is that these experiences they have planned will likely be culture enriched. My dad often sends me videos of Panama, its history, and culture. The pride he has for Panama is admirable. I think I’m in for quite a treat.
- Devouring all the delicious Panamanian food that I can’t get here: The closest I’ve ever gotten to eating true authentic Panamanian food in the States is when we lived in New York- things are just more accessible there. When my family craves Panamanian food, we have to make it from scratch and it’s just not the same. There’s something about the spices and ingredients at home that just make our food so unique and delicious.
Having written this post and just reading it back, I realize that I’m putting a lot of pressure on this trip- typical me. I’m going to try to relax a bit, focus on the things I’m looking forward to, be gutsy, and take lots of pictures (I’ll try to share on Instagram).
Thanks for reading as usual. Wish me luck.
“I’m coming home, I’m coming home, tell the world I’m coming home…..” ~Diddy