On this the day of love, I send my own across the years to a pivotal time in my life where I was leaving the only childhood home I had ever known.
It was a sunny day at first, at least that’s what we could see from the kitchen window that looked on to the the backyard and the vacant lot where we often played kickball.
I remember her looking out the window, with a tissue in her hand, trying to hide how visibly upset she was that we were leaving.
We were moving to Miami and she, my uncle and my cousins were staying in the house we had always rented on Charles Street.
At some point in the day, we all had a crying jag as we realized how final this moment was – when you are a kid, heartbreak can be pretty powerful and my heart was torn into a million pieces as I left my home, my cousins, my friends, my school and my family.
I’ve written about this before. I grew up on a block where all of my aunts and uncles had free reign over my person. Discipline was the community exercise and my relatives were devout athletes. Tia Cuca could pinch me, Martica could scold me, Tio Tata could threaten us – it was a free for all and yet today I turn my thoughts to the lady sitting at the window.
She always had a smile on her face – she could be stern, but she always came from a place of love.
Years later, when she and my uncle eventually made their way to Miami, I remember they lived near a McDonalds at first and later moved to a house near a bakery that had the best pastelitos de queso I ever ate.
We all grew up, lives taking us on different journeys and adventures as our generation took on the roles of matriarchs and patriarchs, we became the free for all aunts and uncles and destiny began to claim the elders who had molded our childhood.
This week we lost the lady at the window. When I heard the news, I immediately went to that day when we were leaving New Jersey. They say that the memories we hold dear are those where love was present and palpable and to me, her being sad for our departure meant she loved us well – she was truly going to miss us, her love was real.
And even though life took us down many different roads, separating our fortunes and are stars, I said many a prayer for her last night. I was remembering her how I remember her, a vibrant and funny and lively being who could light up a room. I was thinking of her kids and her husband, my Tio, and sending my love to them across the virtual connection that now binds us somewhat again.
But in my thoughts I go back to the window and the day she said goodbye to us and while I didn’t say goodbye to her as she left us this week, somewhere deep inside, in the places where we are still children, I will be missing her for a very long time.