Shoebox Child Revisited

If you know me then you know
My mother, the incubator, the shoebox and that damn boat
Were my first sanctuaries
We traveled ninety miles by way of storm
To spin around in a gulf that ultimately landed us on a key
We were welcomed as we were sorted
Creatures of exile from a neighboring island whose government was in flux
This was but a temporary stay because of course
Next year we would be back in Cuba
Next year came and went along with decades of no return
Children of that first generation
Became men and woman
Who learned to embrace a similar
Red white and blue
Still our bodies housed
A bloodline diluted by sugar cane juice
Black beans
And gallons of café
Island living was alive and well
In the rooms of our homes
And especially in the kitchen of our mothers
I was there when we dug our roots into American soil
Watching the arrival of my American born cousins
Delivered in American hospitals
I spoke Cuban Spanish at home, English in School and eventually mastered Spanglish
Trying to explain my customs to my gringo friends was a futile effort
During Friday breakfast at work where Bagels were less the norm
They learned to eat pastelitos and croquetas along with me
While drinking café con leche
All the while making my history rich with anecdotes and tales of a complicated assimilation
So when I see this picture and I see my history becoming history
I am saddened because of those who are now gone
And because of the last name I am leaving on the table
A name that disappears with my generation
Today I sat down to speak with that boy of exile
In one of those introspective conversations I seem to always have with older me
(As only I can have with myself)
And I said to him:

‘Look not on who is gone, but on who endures
Remember your lost, but embrace your remaining
Your name will be gone, but your legacy will survive
The generations of the next generations will remember you
As you have honored the generations before you
And no matter where your story is told
Your initial sanctuaries will be part of the tale
And you will forever be known
(Regardless of where your road leads)
As the Shoebox Child’

  

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