When I first heard that the borders were being closed, I rushed out to the airport in Mexico City with no other expectation than hearing from authorities: You’re not allowed to go back home. Some Canadians were already in line waiting to be placed on the next plane, and in front of me there was a very young woman who, I assumed, had just realized she was going to have to live out the nightmare in a foreign country. At least I was not in a foreign country. As a Mexican, I was home, and my family were all together.
We were into our second or third day of vacation in Mexico when it all happened. It didn’t look like a vacation from the start: people were beginning to get worried about the pandemic, complaining about what the government was or wasn’t doing yet, and foreseeing a tough time to come. The news about the closing of the border felt to us like a bucket of chilling water; we were not going back home, possibly for a very long time. What would happen then with our dog? Our jobs? The house and the rent? In a split second, we saw all our plans vanishing away. In just a finger snap, the whole future turned blurry and uncertain. Even though we were all in this together, this felt like it was only happening to me, to us. We felt personally offended. We have a life in Canada, we work in Canada, we pay taxes in Canada! We have two girls growing up in Canada, and yet, we’re not welcome there. But we didn’t want to be here either, so we were stranded, in a limbo.
Frustration, fears, anger, worries, anxiety, bad dreams, uncertainty, and a permanent knot in the gut became our normal for a few days.
By the time they permitted temporary residents into Canada again, the airlines had cut off their international flights. It wasn’t a matter of will now, there was just no way to get back. This also meant that even if we could return, there wasn’t a way to fly back to Mexico if any of our parents or beloved ones got sick. Then we realized: We’re home in Mexico, and here is where we have to be while this weird impasse finds a way forward.
Soon, while being completely isolated in my parents’ house, I began to recognize the smells, food, sounds, music, steps, voices of my once-home. We felt safe, the girls were even happy. We built a kind of a new normal inside of a parentheses:
What is happening here has its own meaning, and nothing after it will ever be the same.
I have now my “quarantine stamps.” Once I finish the “drawing for beginners” course I signed up for, during one of those slow and heavy days, I aim to draw eventually these: my dad’s desk; the Alcatraz flowers’ drawing in my room; Raul, my husband, seated in the living-library couch; the girls playing with their old toys; my mom cooking; my dad listening to music and reading the news; the three dogs; the online family gatherings; birthday parties with my in-laws; my sister greeting us and laughing from the other side of the grid, my other sister and my niece on the screen. We’re filling up our memories and there’s such a strong taste of home in them.
But in these memories, there’s also a constant taste of nostalgia of what was left 4,770 km away from here: our home, our dog, our sounds, the geese, the frogs, the views, our food, our conversations, our walks, our games. There’s so much to go back to.
The call from the airline alerting us to the reopening of international flights is putting an end to the parentheses. The return seems closer and inevitable. The excitement is felt right away: We’re finally going back home! But also the knot in the gut, the new uncertainty, and of course, a sort of guilt of leaving again our country, our families.
After these months of being home but not being home, I’m certain that we were where we had to be and we’re going back now to where we chose to be, where we chose to build a life, to grow our family, and where we belong too. That’s where we now have to be, and off we go! Willing to put an end to this pause and add a dash to the story—to move forward while giving the future a new sense.