At the airport now. I really didn’t do anything major today, which is perfectly fine by me. I woke up at 9:30 am, had a very leisurely breakfast with my Mom, then went with her to drop my sister at her job in Plaza Las Americas. On the way back we went to pick up some “pan sobao” (a local sweet bread) to take back to Miami, but they had just put it in the oven and it would be another hour before it was ready, so no bread to take back. I went back to the house, and just prepared my stuff so we could go, drop the car and get to the airport with plenty of time so as to avoid a repeat of the overbooking problem I faced coming here. Mom and I just walked around the airport, bought some “dulces tipicos” (local-made all-natural fruit candies) and ate a quick snack. I just left my Mom at the other side of the gate and now I await the boarding call.

It’s been ten years since I first left my Mom on the other side of the gate when I took that one-way flight to Miami, and it really hasn’t gotten any easier. I always have a smile, I always tell her not to cry, I always tell her that it’s only for a short while, but inside it is always hard. Truth is I never know when I will see her again, and that is an uncertainty with which I live every day of my life. It was part and parcel of my choice to leave Puerto Rico and move to the U.S.

Thing is it’s not just my Mom; she’s just the most obvious representation of it all. I find it hard to leave the island behind. It’s the whole package of the land, the people, the culture, the memories. Even with all the changes for what I consider the worse (reggaeton squarely at the top of the list), the place is still my homeland, and there’s a big chunk of me deeply rooted there, one that I just can’t rip out. I know that a big part of this feeling is due to the distance; if I lived here permanently I would probably be just as nonchalant about it all as my friends are, but seeing as I live in Miami, my roots are quite stretched, and that tension, that pull means that I am always consciously aware of who I am, where I came from, and what I left behind in pursuit of a better life.

I don’t regret having gone to Miami, and in all honestly, I don’t know that I could return to live in the island permanently. I’ve changed too much, become too accustomed to a different way of life, that it would be a culture shock, to say the least. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t visit, and that every time I visit, there is actual pain in my heart as I board the plane back, as I must do right now.

It is quite possible that within the next ten years my whole immediately family (meaning my Mom, my sister and nephew) will have moved to Florida, either to Miami or Orlando, and that within the next thirty years my extended family (my grandparents, aunts and uncles) will have either passed away or be quite old, leaving me little, if any, reason to go back to the island. I don’t think, however, that even then I’ll lose my desire and longing to visit, to recharge my Puertorican batteries. It’s in the blood, and there’s little you can do about that.

So I say farewell to Puerto Rico once more, nursing the small wound where my heart tears every time I leave, in a way happy that that wound is still there, for it means my love for my Borinquen is still strong after all these years away. Now, to fly to Miami, back to my soulmate and love of my life, my wife.

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