I have always loved airports. The coming and going of people, to and from different destinations, all with different stories to tell. I've always found it exhilarating and thoroughly fascinating, as I wonder what story lies behind the suitcases and the hurried foot steps. To me, they all spell out countless possibilities and I think there's something profoundly seductive in that. As of late though, I've come to realize that the
airports, the O'Hare and Midway to be specific, have become the valleys of both deep joy and despair for me. Chicago
You see, I've grown to accept that for the most part, my life story now is about leaving or being left...repeatedly. Since migrating, I've had to adjust to the reality that I only see a few of my family and some of my closest friends once a year, IF I'm lucky. As such, going to these airports ultimately spell out either eager excitement when picking up family members who come to visit me, OR dreaded isolation when it's time to bring them back for a flight to
or wherever home is. Manila
Just two weekends ago, Mom had to head back home after a five-month visit. She surprised us when she came over in May and her arrival that day remains to be one of the joyous moments in my life. I thought it was an apparition when I saw her standing in our dining room. Thanks to my husband, the whole surprise was just perfectly orchestrated!
For the past five months, I had Mom assist me in everything, from plain household chores, to child-rearing, and even with trying to keep my sanity (in more ways than one!). For five months, I was able to have more breaks during the day. I was able to enjoy meals without rushing to Noah in between. I didn't have to worry so much about cooking because meals were always ready and my stove kept churning out delightful home cooked Filipino dishes. And did I mention that when I washed clothes, they just magically came out either folded or ironed? In truth, even without all those perks, just her plain presence in the house felt reassuring to me. It was like being allowed to exhale freely after a long period of having to hold your breath and perpetually rush through everything. I've been taking care of Noah and with my Mom's arrival, I had my Mommy back to take care of me. I'm not saying that my husband doesn't look after me. It's just that in my opinion, a mother's care will always be different. Mom just feels like home. The sounds I hear from her are familiar. The smell of the house with the dishes she makes for us is like a warm blanket you can wrap yourself in. The conversations are like comforting echoes from the past.
Mourning my Mom's flight back to the
was postponed for a little while because the day after she left, my best friend Fetle came to visit with her family. We've been best friends for 10+ years now and unfortunately, she's based in Philippines . It was a wonderful week just hanging out with them again. I could only wish for them to move to Chicago or any of the suburbs so that we could hang out every week. Unlike most people with long time friends living in the same vicinity, and with whom they share a common history, a common memory, I've accepted that things such as being able to call your closest friend/s to go out with you for coffee, shopping or some fun girls' night out are no longer part of my taken-for-granted reality. I now need to both embrace this new (bitter) reality and reconstruct a different, more acceptable one. Both are necessary for my mental and spiritual health. Tennessee
At this time, everyone has flown back to where they live and goodbyes were said once more. These goodbyes in my life are much harder than most people's experiences simply because when I take my loved ones to the airport, there's really no telling when I'll see them again. It's not that easy either for anyone to fly and see one another more often because a plane trip to the
takes approximately 20 hours and almost always costs more than a $1,000. The need for Filipino citizens to have a visa when they enter the Philippines further complicates the situation. This is exactly the reason why I have not seen my brother for a long time now. It's depressing to think that it takes so much effort, time and money just for my family to be complete once again. It saddens me that Noah won't be growing up with his cousins from my side of the family; that two of his grandparents are not witnessing how he's developing; that he's really only exposed to one side of his family and that my side only seems like a faint shadow that can easily be blurred. U.S.
Despite all this brooding, believe it or not, I'm actually much better now than before. Yes, I still lament about all these things and will probably do so for the rest of my life. However, the difference is that I have also proven to myself that I am capable. My parents' physical absence does not incapacitate me as a parent and household manager. My friends' physical distance has not deterred me from wanting to find new true friends (though I've come to realize how difficult this is). My sense of isolation, among other things, has driven me to appreciate what I do still have around me and most importantly what's within me. I've come to realize and more critically observe my own resilience and have learnt to find creative outlets for exorcising my own demons (hence my consistent blogging). I still have a long way to go and that is an understatement. And when all else fails and I feel close to diving into that valley of despair once again, I try to find solace in this quote:
"So now, all alone or not, you gotta walk ahead. Thing to remember is if we're all alone, then we're all together in that too." (Patricia, played by Kathy Bates, in the movie P.S. I Love You, 2007)