I was uprooted last December.
I was excited to be back in South Florida celebrating Christmas after a one-year hiatus when I found out that my parents — divorced over 10 years, but always living within 10 minutes of each other — were moving back to their respective home countries. They were both living in Latin America by February. All of a sudden, Christmas 2014 became my last Christmas at home, for real this time. (Not “my last Christmas at home before college, x, y, or z.”)
Not only did I have to essentially mourn the loss of my parents’ proximity to me, but I also had to mourn the loss of my hometown. Yes, it’s still there to visit, but it won’t be the same. I don’t know when I’ll be back, and when I am, I won’t get to stay at my mom’s house, or in my childhood bedroom. Those roots are gone. It’s a moment I knew would eventually come, but I wasn’t expecting at 24.
Now, I’m really not sure what “home” means. My place of origin will always be Florida. The familiarity is comforting — the friends, the food, the Publix stores, the humidity, the mazes of highways that I can’t drive but are still etched into my mind. But it’s not my home base anymore, and I never necessarily fit into the stereotype: the hustling, the glamour, the swag that South Florida thinks it’s all about.
Is Philly my home? That would imply that I consider myself a Philadelphian, but I don’t. Arguing about what makes someone a “true” Philadelphian (or New Yorker, Miamian, etc.) is neither here nor there, but it’s not a way I choose to identify myself right now.
For me, it keeps coming back to the idea of love and friendship. For the most part, when I’m with my friends — from growing up, or college, or now Philly — and my family — Nick and Zamboni included — I feel happy and at peace. For now, that feeling is home. I’m laying down roots again, and who knows how long or how deep these will take hold.
This past Saturday, I flew to see my mom in Colombia: the first time I’m here in four years, the first time I’ve been here since my grandparents passed away, and the first time I’ve been here since my mom made her old home her new home. It’s been less than 48 hours, but it feels different. Some of the places and faces have changed, and I have a new place to call home (for a week): my mom’s apartment, where I can be myself and speak English as freely as I want.
On the trip down, I had the briefest of layovers at the Miami airport. It felt completely foreign to my body — I’ve never had the need for a layover there in my life. It was always the start of my adventure or my final stop, not a stepping stone. I spent most of my time back in Miami waiting in line at a Cafe Versailles stand. The guava pastelito I bought, that tasted like home too.