Every time I visit my family I notice how I'm taller than my parents, aunts, and uncles and my nieces, nephews, and cousins keep getting taller than I am. My immediate family, along with most of my extended family from my moms side, have been living in the state of Utah for the last seven years. Cheaper cost of living. I use to visit every summer, but over the years I've stopped going all together. I've seen my family here and there when they come to Los Angeles to visit, and this weekend was the first time in a long time that I've made the trip over there.
Before, I would make a summer trip out of it. I'd take a week off from what I'm doing and take Amtrak over there. This time around though, I'm better off financially than I've ever been and I can afford to fly over taking the bus or train. While I only spent two days over there, it was more than enough for me. While the more things change, the more they stay the same for the good and the bad.
I've missed out on a lot of things in terms of my family and I've been ok with that. When I decided to leave I knew it was for the better and what I needed. Standing here now and being able to tell them how good I'm doing puts all those sacrifices in perspective. I've missed seeing my sisters grow into young women and into mothers. As much as I wanna pick up and hug my nieces, they're still to young to understand that they have an uncle who cares about them. Seeing them turn away and cry when I reach out to them sums it up nicely.
In the past, it was distance and time that kept me away from visiting. Now a days, what keeps me away is more of a cultural divide. My parents have always know I was going to be different from what they expected, if they expected anything at all. They thrusted me into American culture without hesitation that there's no way for me to be anything else but Mexican American. Here in LA, I cherish and protect that which reminds me of the home I shared with my family growing up and the one I left at seven years old to come to the US.
I'll go out of my way just to reminisce about something because I look through a romanticized lens. I think back on how good it was the first and no matter how hard I try, it's just not the same. That's how I am with my family. I've grown and changed dramatically from how my family pictures me. I know this cause they were surprised to see me karaoking to Selena and dancing cumbias. They've never known me to do any of that kind of stuff, let alone bask in it.
My family ask how I'm doing, and me saying "good" is enough for them. Being there again for my least favorite sisters' wedding felt like being in a bubble, mostly because that's how things are over there for them. My sisters may be moms now and are moving out to live with their partners, my parents keep getting shorter the older they get because they're from the old world like that, along with all those aunts, uncles, and cousins who suddenly have a hard time remembering me because of my facial hair.
During the party on Saturday night, it hit me on what I was missing out on by not being there. I shared my first dance with my mom, along with one of my nieces. I shared drinks with men who I use to literally look up to. I saw how through years of family drama, almost everyone was still keeping it together and supporting each other. All those familiar faces from parties of yesteryear were still there and it seemed like I never left in the place. Kids are running around everywhere, boy and girls separating to do their own thing while the teens try and look all cool and grown up with each other.
I really wonder what idea and/or image they have of me. I rarely talk about the kind of work I do, let alone that I'm active in organizing and social justice spaces. But I know they've seen or heard something or other cause my parents would probably say something when asked about me. That and the fact that I use to be on spanish news segments every once in a while back in the day. Those are the kinds of conversations I use to be around as a kid. I always hated them because despite being right there in front of them, they would talk about you in the third person.
Then there's inkling in me to want to talk to my older cousins, nieces, and nephews about what they're doing and what they might have planned. I wanna ask them how they're doing in school and if they are even thinking about college. To offer myself and all of my resources to help them get to where they wanna get. To leave the family behind for a while and go do their own thing. But I don't know them like to be asking anything other than if they remember me.
There's a lot of lamenting on my part for what could have been and for what isn't. I move forward knowing the choices I made can't be change, but they can be mended. Once my nieces get older and can speak in full sentences, then maybe that's when I'll start visiting on a more regular basis.