Friday, February 15, 2019

the other side of the border

"You should write this down," he said, "your thoughts, your observations, this seems like the kind of thing you'll want to be able to remember."
Last week, I came back to San Francisco from... San Francisco. I'd spent six days in my dad's Mexican hometown. It was not, as so many assumed, "fun". But it wasn't not fun. Instead, as another friend told me after listening to my recap, "it sounded so beautiful, and so special that you can connect with that side of you, and it's so close generationally, still." Yes, exactly. It felt like that.

My brother and sister hadn't been there in ~22 years. They hadn't known what to expect. They haven't pursued post-grad studies and application of Spanish in my same way. I might assume then that the experience we shared might be more poignant to them. For all intensive purposes, they saw and heard, for the "first time", the world my dad was born into. They had more questions. While he re-embraced his original norms, they observed (more often than not) with reverent curiosity. I imagine there was distinct magic to it.

Even still, I'd consider myself distinctly privileged to have some familiarity, recalling my last visit and remnants of the nearly annual childhood trips. El rancho always feels far "from home", but it's not quite as foreign to my heart. I was able to recognize their experiences and that of my father, and dare I presume, appreciate both.

What was new, this time around, was my full-circle understanding of the following truths:
  • My dad grew up rich; if we consider rich surrounded by extended family, nourishing locally-sourced food, clean and clear skies, respect for hard work matched with active leisure (read: soccer) and convivial rest.
  • My dad accepted the fact that he loved his home but wouldn't find the opportunities for financial success that he desired.
  • So my dad left; he haphazardly entered the cruel American grind with a weak grasp of English and the kindness of a few friends/family who'd arrived before him, and he figured that sh** out. I imagine some days, and weeks, and months were harder than others--they had to have been--but he did it. He worked multiple jobs and went to school at night and fell in love with mother and started a family and then his own business. He achieved the American dream. He said so out loud last week, while visiting his parents (who live on the same property where he and his eight siblings were born, by the way, but now with two new houses and a multitude of modern amenities) with his three college-educated children, two of whom also have master's degrees. What's even more amazing, if such a concept is at all possible, is how he built this life with as much generosity of spirit and faith in humanity as he continues to possess. My mom sometimes call it naïveté. My father is certainly a flawed man, as any one of us are, but my gosh how I aspire to embody and pass on such wholeness.