When you leave a place, like really leave a place, packing up all your belongings and treasures into what you can carry knowing you will never return.
When you struggle, persist, adapt.
When you see your children realizing your dream.
This is not unique to me or my family, it is the story of every immigrant.
I always envied friends that had extended family, that had generations to reference, that had traditions and family homes, that had roots.
Anthony and I have been taking our kids to Rehoboth Beach, DE since Lucas was five months old. Each year we return because we love the place; the saltwater air and crashing waves but also the charming shops and restaurants that make this place a city-beach town. A day at Rehoboth is crepes at Cafe Papillon with a Rise Up nitro coffee, a greasy sub from Gus and Gus with Thrashers fries, me shopping at Sole Boutique and Bella Luna while the kids hit Candy Kitchen and Gidget’s Gadgets, Muffin Mania and Beach Ball Toss at Funland, dinner at Henlopen Oyster House or Lupa’s or Stingray or Salt Air followed by gelati or Kohr Brothers or funnel cake, skeeball, bumper cars, endless hours at Zelky’s and armfuls of stuffed toys. Over the past few years Anthony and I have discussed buying a second home and as we reflected on locations it was an easy decision to pick this place that had unknowingly become our second hometown.
Traditions are predictable and create connection and while the traditions we’ve made with our children draws us here the future conversations where Penny says “Remember when I won my first Squishmallow in Beach Ball Toss?” or Oliver says “I want to see that black and white movie again that was playing at Lupa’s.” or Lucas says “Remember the surry bike ride when we were so heavy Dad could barely move us?” and the traditions they’ll carry forward are what has made us lay down our roots here.
Deep roots of tradition, of family, of values, of generations to come.
They go off to college, they return, they grow up but traditions always remain, as steadfast as the bond that binds them.
Easter this year was on April 12th, 27 days into “safer at home”. Keeping with tradition my sisters and our kids got together for our usual egg hunt. Knowing we were breaking the rules and judgements would be harsh we didn’t post or share a single photo. Now as I look back at the crazy haircuts or lack of haircuts, two cousins now gone to college, I am reminded that life still happened and is happening, that traditions can be maintained and these memories, so precious, must be created and remembered.
How do you carry your heart of gold? Are there some mornings where its sheer weight makes it hard to rise? Does it push and pull other organs, throwing its weight around? Does it flow blood the same, push beats the same, feel love the same?
How do you bear a heart of gold? Does each slight cut deeper, each hurt sting sharper? When you give so openly what do you have left for yourself?
How do you feel with your heart of gold? Does each hug feel warmer? Do the kind words, acts of grace, thoughtful gestures fill you up fuller? Do you carry love deeper?
I may not know how it feels for you but I know how it feels for us.
During the long months of quarantine the one constant was family. Every week I saw my family, my lifesaver in a sea of isolation, restlessness and fear. I didn’t tell many because it was a personal decision and judgements were being dealt swiftly and fiercely. But just as important as our physical health is our mental health and when our minds have nothing to do but wonder, wander and overthink seeing family was our sanity. We told the same stories, shared the same opinions and laughed at the same jokes week after week; it was wonderfully predictable and comforting. So after months of quarantine we took our routine on the road. For one week our jokes had new air to breathe, we had new scenery for our stories and the foundation of family remained solid in the sand.
Today is day 72 of quarantine, today is also Penny’s 11th birthday. In an average year this date could have fallen on a school day for her and a work day for me, a chaotic day of commitments squeezing in celebrations where we can. But instead it’s day 72 of quarantine, of social-distancing, of distance learning, of work from home. Her morning started with our usual birthday breakfast tradition but instead of rushing out the door she was surprised with a “Happy 11th Birthday Penny!!” chalk art message thoughtfully and beautifully decorating our front side walk, with homemade doughnuts dropped off with homemade cards and a lot of love, with texts, messages and videos as they streamed in from friends near and far, and a socially-distanced ice cream break which turned into a water gun fight (OK, the six feet distance may not have been enforced the whole time). So on her 11th birthday, the 72nd day of quarantine, of social-distancing and isolation, she felt streamers full of love, coming from every which way, tumbling down on her.