Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dancing Palm Tree Headdresses

Shake shake shake. Love that Cuban music. We went to a show tonight and listened to music we played at home when I was a child and watched the dancers strut and shake. Girls with palm trees on their heads. It just doesn't get any better. Outside, the wind is blowing and the Malecón is tossing angry waves over the wall, across the street. Very dramatic, and it reminded me of a wave crashing over the car, terrifying me (and my parents, I'm sure), because a crab or some other crab-like creature stayed on the windshield. Another vivid childhood memory.

A Night with Family

It's still strange to talk about spending a night with my family in Cuba (that alone is still unbelievable). I took a cab to Margarita's house, and along the way the driver told me his love story. He and his fiancé met thirty years ago, btu during Mariel, she left and he stayed. They drifted apart, married other people, and lost contact. Eight years ago, she divorced and when her friends tried to match her with new beaus, she said that her true love was in Cuba. Her friends began the search with she eventually joined, and five years later, she found him. He had also divorced, so they cautiously decided to meet as friends, however, as he said, within an hour their passion has resumed. She now lives in Miami but he has his papers and goes for his interview next week. I do hope that it works out for him and that we'll run into each other in Miami. Another romantic Cuban dares to dream...

It rained all night, but inside the house it was stories, raunchy jokes, singing and lots of laughter. It felt like home, so very oddly like home. They said that they didn't expect me to be so Cuban, especially to sound like a Cuban (something I've heard a lot this week). We ate chícharos, white rice and fried eggs, a simple meal and tastier than the restaurants we've been visiting during the week. I was happy, very happy. And, as my brother asked, I took our mother's picture, gave it to Margarita who wanted to keep it with her. Mami is home again.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday in Cuba

What a day! We started our with a panel discussion about general disability care, autism and special education, and, what are the odds? The psychiatrist and I have a colleague in common from Houston. The psychiatrist has traveled to the U.S twice and met the person we know, Dr. Pedro Ruiz, in one of several conferences, and they've stayed in touch. He was very sweet and made sure we got pictures and will stay in touch to exchange professional papers. The next lady is an autism expert with some ideas that are not quite mainstream, but when she heard me speak, she knew right away that I'm Cuban and that led to the usual hugs and kisses and exchange of email. The third lady is from the town where I was born and during break, they invited me to sit at the front table so that we could discuss disabilities. It was a blast!

During the next session, we sat through a political propaganda session, obviously a requirement, but still interesting. Then we went to Old Habana. I took tons of pictures and used up one battery. Tonight, we went to a fancy restaurant (fancy is a relative term) and had truly fantastic Cuban food. My feet are killing me--lots and lots of walking, but it's amazing.

I'm loving the warmth of the Cuban people and how comfortable I feel. Everyone is extended family (although I remain vigilant about my wallet, I'd, etc. No need to be naive.) Curiously, at every meal except breakfast we've been served alcohol cocktails. I've had mojitos, rum and coke, and something with rum this afternoon. Cuban rum is the smoothest rum I've ever tasted. Such a shame that we can't bring it back!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


It's a strange feeling. I belong here, and I'm a tourist, but when I open my mouth, they know. And they welcome me. I come from friendly people who know how to have fun. At margarita's house, we went through a hundred or so family pictures, ate together, cried together (again and again), and I sobbed through the old house, my house, where I was born. I walked in and was flooded with old memories, buried long ago. Sitting on the window by the rejas, peeking over the columns in the front, the tile on the porch where I played, the nanny lining up chairs while cleaning my room and I, playing train in the chairs, the kitchen, the yard, the front room at christmas, exactly where my new doll was on three king's day, waiting for my mother by the window and watching her walk up the walk in her purple teacher much at once. I was dizzy with emotion, too much to process, and never enough. I'm in Cuba. I'm amazed and very, very happy.

En Camino

Estoy en rumbo a Cuba, un milagro del cual sólo soñaba. Pronto veré la isla. Me emociono al pensar de las décadas que Han pasado y como mis padres nunca pudieron volver. Me gustaría estar con mis hermanos pero esta es una aventura que tengo que tomar sola. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Miami Clan

I'm so lucky! My sister and Nance met me at the airport, took me to Versailles for snacks, where we saw yet another anti-Castro Cuban demonstration, then met Gabe and his family for dinner. So much laughter, so much shared history. I saw Miami High, Little Havana, familiar hangouts. I love two things about Miami: 1) they speak Spanish openly and 2) they love big hips!

Going Home

Yes, Texas is my home, where family and my dearest loves live. And yet, I'm going home. 50 years ago my parents left everything behind and brought me to the US. Now, as an adult, I reflect on the enormity of that decision and the courage and pain they balanced. Ostracized by his family, my father still prioritized my mother and me. Knowing no English, my mother waved goodbye and cried all the way. I remember that. I remember the rain when we arrived and whispered conversations about going back home. I wonder if my dada knew all the time that the move was final. I wonder when my mother realized that her fate had changed while she was looking. Such loses, even as they created a new life, but never intending to do so.

And now I go back. I return as a professional and I'm anticipating the most basic joy, a hug from people who love me just because I share history and blood. We share a unique history that only we can remember and do so as kids, but our lives took such different paths. None of our own making, but eventually intersecting. I wish that I had something of my father to bring back with me, but he left so little tangible, so much in my heart. Maybe that's the greatest way to bring him home. When I arrive, I'll just say his name and let him know. He's home.

My mother said she never wanted to go back, but her anger and pain spoke volumes. She, too, needed closure. She, too, is going with me. I will hug my cousins for myself, for my brother and sister, for my parents, for all of the family they will never know. Now, at this point in my life, I go home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Heart Big Enough

I didn't give birth to her. I wasn't there for her first step or the first time that her hair was just long enough to pull into pigtails. I never knew when she made the basketball team in high school, and I never saw that winning shot she made at the last minute of the game. Her favorite color, her first love, her first heartbreak remain mysteries to this day. And yet, she gave me a gift that forever changed my life. Five years ago, she made me a grandmother. In the eyes of the world, she's a stepdaughter--one "step" removed. But in my eyes, the only step is the one she took into my heart--a heart that has grown big enough to love her and the precious little boy who looks up at me and says, "I love you, Grammie.".

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Oprah's Legacy

When my kids fussed about some cruel and unusual request that I made--do your homework, finish your laundry, make your bed--I assured them that one day they could go on Oprah and report my sins and how I had damaged their fragile psyches. I suppose that I never thought about Oprah ending her show. It goes to show how one woman became ingrained into my life through her shows and her many revelations to us. I saw her speak once when I lived in Beaumont. She is truly larger than life--personable, charming, warm and deliciously large. I can relate to a woman with hips and thighs.  I can also relate to her love of books. Of the many valuable contributions that Oprah has made, one of the most important has to be her book club. I love books, and anyone who promotes reading is #1 for me.  Oprah's Book Club has 70 titles. I've read 20; 50 more to go!  Here's the list,

How many have you read?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Baby Ballerinas and Other Tiny Wonders

So, what is it about a tiny little girl in a pink tutu that makes me cry--even if it's a kid I don't know? Nameless little pixies bouncing and skipping and slinking and waving across the stage, each dancing to her own little tempo, still bring a tear to my eye. I could cover the tears with laughter because it was truly hilarious (especially the batton twirler who covered her head after pitching it upward and missing the trajectory). But when that special little princess, the one whose name I know and cherish, trotted across the stage, waving furiously and doing four dance steps that took five months to learn, I remembered again how sweet tears of joy can be. Dance little ballerina!