Twelve years passed since I went back to my mothers land of Colombia. For her, it had been 23. She left Medellin and never turned back. This trip, for my 27th birthday, was especially important because it was the first time I was traveling with my mother and my wife.
Since the last time I was there, I had passed my rebellious teenage years, gone off to college, graduated three times, come out the closet, had my heart broken and broken hearts, won and had some losses and met my soul mate. I was excited but nervous about this trip because I was going to introduce my family in Colombia to my wife.
When we finally arrived my cousin Pipe picked us up from the airport with his wife Lina and told us we were going to meet up with my aunt Doralba, my uncle Jose, and my grandmother- who we’ll call Mamita.
I remember going over and over in my head what they would think of me and what I was going to have to say. Melani, my wife, is usually more uncomfortable in these situations but was chill the whole ride there. As soon as we pulled up to the community gate, memories came flooding back of how I would spend my summers there. In this neighborhood, I experienced a “real”childhood, had mango fights, ate sancocho with the kids from the block, got matching piercings with my sister and cried when leaving my friends. This time I was driving back as an adult, with a wife, and 12 years of experiences since I left. It was nostalgic.
As we got out of the car I look over at Lina, Pipe’s wife and I said, “What should I say to her? Hola Tia, soy lesbiana,” Lina replied, “Don’t be silly, they all know.”
We all walked into my aunt’s house, and my heart was bouncing in my throat.
My tia Doralba walked right up to me and gave me the biggest hug of life.
“Holaaaaaaa mi titi, hace tiempo que no te veo” and then she walked right up to Melani and with a matching hug said “Hola Melani, yo se mucho de ti,” and just like that, one of the scariest coming out moments of my life was over.
Our Colombia trip has been particularly memorable because, I was able to show my wife where I had spent many summers of my childhood. My mother and her bonded in ways that would never happen in Miami. I got to see another side of my aunt Doralba that I never knew existed. She’s funny, stylish, kind and adventurous, and my mom who had not been back home in 23 years was able to meet up with “Mamita” my pretend grandma who would have been my mom’s mother-in-law.
See my mom lost her first love, Cesar, Mamitas son in a motorcycle accident when they were in their 20s. Cesar was my mom’s first love, and she never had another. They met up the day before in an emotional reunion where my mom showed up at her doorstep after 23 years. Needless to say, mamita was floored. It was incredible to see all of these strong, beautiful, Colombian women together.
One of the nights we all went to a café and they told stories about growing up there and what it was like to be in relationships. Mamita told us about her tumultuous relationship with Papito, Cesar’s father. My mom talked to us about her relationship with Cesar. Tia Doralba talked to us about her relationship with my uncle, my mom’s brother and what it was like for her coming into our family. I learned my uncle worked in marketing for Caracol a radio station in Colombia. Tia Doralba and my mom told us about stories dealing with these men and our family troubles. Melani and I were passengers in these stories, but it was such a unifying moment for us and our relationship.
I realized how grateful I was for those summer vacations and the sacrifices my single mother had to make to send my sister and me for an entire summer to another country. She denied herself that luxury for us to have life experiences and stories to tell. And here it was coming back to us full circle. I felt grateful for her, the life I live, for my soul mate and the opportunity to show her another look into my life. All of my family is still happy and healthy. We got to unite Mamita and my mother again and I was able to be myself, with my family and my wife. The week was short lived, but the memories will stay with us a lifetime.