The aunt who follows the nephews’ growth through the phone screen. But not only. I am the daughter who cannot visit her father every time he is hospitalized. The niece who does not bring any dessert to Sunday lunches, the friend who misses class meetings, the great-granddaughter who does not appear in family photos, the mother who replies, “I know, sweetie, that all grandparents pick their grandchildren up once a week at school, but yours live on the other side of the ocean.”
Worst of all, I chose to be this person. I chose to say goodbye to the ones I love without having all the certainties we have when we know the next meeting is the following week. And when I chose, I knew I would never be complete again.
I know you understand me, having also left from wherever you did to make your home hundreds of miles from home. We celebrate Jewish holidays with an empty heart even when we have a full table full, commemorate birthdays with incomplete guest list, occupy few chairs at our children’s school parties. We are the ones with no past, no shared memories or full address books.
So you finally buy a plane ticket to visit everything you left. A whole world. And the moment you land in your own place, you realize – despite the full heart and true hugs – that this is no longer your home.
Suddenly you think that over there, the life (which by the way you used to live) does not match the person you have become. The conversations are no longer yours. Nor the priorities, the anguish, the plans.
“Are you feeling like a fish out of water?”
God, thanks for asking. Yes, I am.
Welcome, winged fellows, to the strange feeling of having dual nationality and not belonging to anywhere. From wanting a lap, your mom’s soup, meetings with childhood friends. But here, where the grass is greener, the sky bluer, life – and future possibilities – is as you chose. From being there and wanting to be here and being here, wanting to be there.
The truth is that we will never have the answer. Whether what we did was right or wrong, too much or too little. Whether your children’s future will be sweet or bitter. You have changed the route and you will be able to clear only what lies ahead.
That’s only for a few. Not everyone who has huge wills can face what’s behind the beautiful posts on Facebook. Not everyone can handle not giving up with the enormous losses and emotional avalanches that are part of the package. Not everyone can stand to see their children crying out of longing, can take off and sustain in the air, have courage, enough tears or strength to stay.
So yes, we are aunts at a distance. And also the daughters, nieces, friends, great-granddaughters. We are far from others because one day, we decided it was time to be close to our dreams.