Sunday, August 17, 2014

Moon and Stars


We left Kingston on the 1:12 a.m flight last night and arrived back in New York at 6 a.m. this morning. Customs at JFK was a surreal, flights from everywhere converging on the International Arrivals Building as the sun rose. We inched forward in lines upon snaking lines, only to be directed to stand in more lines that zig zagged maze-like with our quarry seeming always to be further away. There was no logic to any of it. My daughter said, "Can you imagine what Ellis Island must have been like after that long sea voyage, the endless lines, the medical checks, the hooks in your eyes, and then being sent back after all that?" I looked around the arrivals hall at the thousands upon thousands of bleary-faced souls in the line for returning citizens, humans of all descriptions, and I couldn't help but recall my husband saying after one such return, "Look at all the colors of the people in this line. This right here is the Republicans' worst nightmare." We were huddled masses for sure, but most of us were not from anywhere near Europe.

When we finally got into the customs booth, the agent, an older Chinese woman, looked as if it was just way too early: She even blinked in slow motion as she rifled the pages of our passports listlessly, and was flummoxed again and again by her recalcitrant stamp machine. It seemed to need to be "set" somehow, a step she couldn't seem to bother remembering. She was so over it. She brightened up a bit when her eyes fell on my daughter's name, which I've been told means "Moon and Stars" in Mandarin, and she smiled fleetingly as she asked my daughter how she pronounces it. By then my girl was doing her darndest to keep a straight face. We were punchy from the long night of travel and everything was absurdly funny. I saw my child trying so hard not to laugh at the wayward stamp machine and the woman's utter indifference to it, and I nearly lost my own composure. As soon as we were safely out of earshot, we collapsed into giggles like silly schoolgirls. My son was much too tired to pay us any mind. Instead he headed for our bags, which were already off the carousel and stacked in the distance.

Everyone is sleeping now, exhausted from the quiet emotional reckoning of saying yet another goodbye to my mom, knowing each one could be our last. Before we left yesterday, my sister in law took us all for Devon House ice cream, a particular treat in Jamaica, so that my younger niece, who'd returned from summer camp that afternoon, could have some fun with her cousins. Outside the ice cream parlor afterward, I snapped a photo of Lady G's grandchildren, all five of them together for the first time in as long as any of us could remember. May there be many more such reunions, with my mom still around and able to enjoy them. It's nice to be back in New York, though. There's nothing in the world like your own bed. In fact I'm about to climb back into it. Welcome home, me.


Photo taken August 16, 2014 at Sovereign Plaza, Kingston, Jamaica. Ages from left are 10, 22, 13, 20 and 24.


11 comments:

  1. Oh, welcome home. Welcome home! Now rest.

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  2. I love the thought of Ellis Island. My great grandfather arrived at Ellis Island in 1912 and then continued on to Saskatchewan. He was 16. How tired he must have been!

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  3. Welcome home -- the photo of your mama is so beautiful and poignant for what we know. I am always a bit in awe how your photos speak -- literally -- of so much humility and beauty and love.

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  4. Welcome home. Thank you for taking us with you.

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  5. oh yes, welcome home to the embrace of your own bed. and, my gosh, the portrait of your mother is beyond beautiful.
    love is the what.

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  6. That photograph of your mother is beautiful, as is the expression on your daughter's face as she looks at her.

    I also really love the Ellis Island comparison -- I've thought of that time often while traveling, and count my blessings for the situation that I'm in (instead of that one). How brave those immigrants were; I wish society viewed immigrants now as the brave, strong souls that they are.

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  7. Welcome home, indeed!
    Those this-could-be-the-last-goodbye goodbyes kill me.
    xoxox

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  8. Of course your daughter's name would mean 'moon and stars'! I loved your thoughts about Eliis Island. Welcome home.

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  9. I'm glad you had this wonderful time together memory-making with your beautiful mother and family. Welcome back!

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  10. I've always found travelling to be extremely tiring, but when met by dithering immigration officials, at one's destination, it becomes a nightmare. Oh to be back HOME.

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  11. So glad you are back home. Welcome home, you!

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