I moved to Canada when I was 19. It all happened because of love. I married my husband Sebastian, 21, and five days later I left my family, my friends and my country forever. The marriage was a condition for me being able to move to Quebec, Canada, where Sebastian’s family had moved a year before on a family immigration program. The day Sebastian told me that the papers from Immigration had arrived and that they would be moving in just a few months, I started crying. I didn’t cry because I knew I would be away from him, I cried because I knew right there and then that I would be leaving my family to be with him – there was no question in my heart that this is what I would do.
There was also a certainty, something I shared with my sisters, and later my brother, that our lives did not belong in Venezuela, that eventually we would all seek new adventures and build our lives elsewhere. I was 19 and I loved my country deeply. I loved watching the multicoloured sunrise from my 14th floor bedroom window, how the smell of wet soil brought in by a sudden breeze would announce a late summer thunderstorm. I loved our torrential rain and our blinding sun. Still, I dreamt of other places, mostly places where you were allowed to be just who you wanted to be, not something I really felt I could do in conservative, mostly catholic Venezuela.
Eventually, my sisters both moved out of Venezuela too. One to Germany, and the other one to California. My brother stayed in Venezuela with my parents until just a few years ago. We built our lives each in a different country, a triangle of distance between us. We have experienced life this way for 21 years.
For a decade we cried every time we saw each other and the moment to say goodbye inevitably came. Airports became places of nerves and fear, where the dull pain of tears unshed weighted in our chests and throats. When kids arrived, the pain of saying goodbye was soothed by busy lives and new loves needing our attention. Now, our lives are built out of promises. Year by year, we hang onto the promise of the next trip, the next summer, the next occasion to be together and whole again.
I kiss my son’s hair a hundred times each day. My nieces and nephew get the same love — a hundred kisses each, so they know, even when we are apart, that I love them, that they are a piece of me, as my sisters and brother are. I want to hold each moment and stretch it, make it thick and slow moving — “can you believe it” we say, “dad turned 70 this year.” We have to believe it, though the relentless pace of everyday responsibilities leaves little room to reflect about the ordinary, let alone the extraordinary.
A weekend trip comes and goes in a whisper; a long planned family reunion builds up and ends in a whirlwind of happiness and laughter. One by one we take everybody to the airport, we say goodbye and make a new promise to meet in a different destination: “New York,” “London,” “Hawaii.” The day after, life, it its cruel dullness and normality, resumes its course, as if the last few days had not happened — our memories, just a bright, vivid dream.