I remember waiting.  

The vast, crowded airport walkways

lined with faces, esperando (waiting).

Esperando con esperanza (waiting with hope).

Memories of waiting:

Blurs between stepping on my father’s feet

as we danced in the crowd with no music playing

And tugging on my mother’s shirt incessantly asking

Mami, what is taking so long? Can we go home yet?

Time passed briskly, but yet

I remember waiting.

A crowd of people,

dressed in their finest raggedy clothing,

faces plastered with confusion,

perfumed with a notable scent of nervousness

emerged from the enormous glass double doors.

As tears lined her eyes, mom ran towards a greying woman wearing a long colorful skirt and an older man donning a straw hat proudly atop his head.

with eyes of perplexed childhood wonder,

I stood behind her and watched, gazing up at my father -

“Papi, why is Mami talking to strangers?”

I remember waiting,

waiting for Mami to tell me who they were.

Old friends? Aunts? Uncles? Distant cousins?

I did not know.

Mami, teary-eyed yet gleaming with joy,

turned towards my brother and me

as my dad motioned us towards her.

“Mel. Cuco. Estos son sus abuelos (These are your grandparents).”

They looked at us with eyes of perplexed grandparent wonder.

I remember waiting.

Months of waiting.

I remember yearning to feel the intrinsic bond every child seems to share with grandparents,

But the title “abuelos (grandparents)” did not make them any less of strangers to me.

In that moment I thought, maybe, if we had more in common, that connection would instantaneously spark.

I decided to teach them English.

I would set up my little play area complete with a board, desks, and flashcards.

But they did not understand.

Si abuela (Yes grandma), abeja is bee. Escribelo como te enseñe (Write it like I taught you). No abuela no, son dos e’s. Two e’s!!

Patience has never been my greatest virtue,

but I continued waiting.

Thanksgiving arrived, and I woke up to the sounds of pans clattering, water running, and the backyard sliding door opening and closing. Opening and closing.

I stepped outside and was greeted by the beloved smell of puerco asado (roasted pork), but it was the wrong time.

It was not Christmas yet? Was I still dreaming?

Mi nieta! (My granddaughter)” Abuelo Felix exclaimed as he picked me up and embraced me in un fuerte abrazo (a strong hug).

Hoy si vamos a celebrar! Hoy es el día de dar gracias! Estamos en América! (Today we will really celebrate! Today is the day to give thanks! We are in America!)”

Abuela Mirella came rushing behind him and took me by the hand

Si mi nieta! Ven para que me puedas ayudar en la cocina. (Yes my granddaughter! Come so you can help me in the kitchen.)”

I walked into my kitchen, where I encountered dishes brimming with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, marshmallows.

My familiar Thanksgiving.

“Enseñame. Así, podemos celebrar juntos. (Teach me. That way we can celebrate together.)”

Our table, under stars in the misty night air,

surrounded by puerco asado, platters of sweet potato, and dishes of pumpkin pie,

And the clinking sounds of el domino and the Havana All-Stars playing from my dad’s old boombox.

That night, as the string lights reflected softly on our faces,

The twinkling of my eyes no longer esperando,

but filled with esperanza.

That night, I met mis abuelos.


“Happy Thanksgiving” became “Feliz Día de Thanksgiving.”

The following week at school, my class was asked to describe our Thanksgivings.

My hand darted into the air before anyone else’s, eager to answer with my proudest response.

I answered, with all the eloquence my first-grade self could conjure,

“It was different. I liked it.”

I was no longer waiting.