In THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, a father and son have been separated for seven years. When the father believes he has been reunited, he has a confusing and disconcerting experience when his son does not recognize him. Egeon, the father, says:
“Why look you strange on me? you know me well.
O, grief hath changed me since you saw me last,
And careful hours with time’s deformed hand
Have written strange defeatures in my face:
But tell me yet, dost thou not know my voice?
Tell me thou art my son, Antipholus.
But seven years since, in Syracusa, boy,
Thou know’st we parted.”
Vanesa Simon, a participant in “Our America, Our Shakespeare / Nuestra América, Nuestro Shakespeare,” wrote of her return to her homeland after over twenty years. She wonders what the experience will be like after not seeing them for so long.
“Eleven” by Vanesa Simon
My baby boy, he’s only eleven months old, he’s so fidgety on the plane. He is crawling up and down the aisle, and I’m letting him because it allows me to walk up and down the aisle. And I have just as much fidgety, nervous energy pulsing through my own body.
Eleven long hours on the plane, to think about the family I left behind when I was just eleven years old.
I can’t sleep, there are so many thoughts running through my mind. I feel excited but apprehensive because although I am going “home”, I don’t know this home very well.
Twenty plus years of being away from this “home” makes me more a stranger, a foreigner than not. It is all unfamiliar. The language is no longer my first language. The country, mi patria, is a strange land with strangers in it to me. Even my own family are more strangers than family. I haven’t spoken to many of them for a decade or more. How do I explain the past 20 years in a matter of days? How do I connect with them in such a short time? And worse yet, what if I don’t like them?
What do I say to my aging grandmother who has Alzheimers? And my 90 year old grandfather who is not the grandfather I left behind? The cousins who were born after we left, I am a complete stranger and it is a mystery to have family you have never met. I’m dreading the awkward moments that I know will come with those who remember me but I have no recollection of. I already feel anxious about it and a cold perspiration starts first in my face and then all over my body.
So I pace up and down the aisle with my antsy toddler.
We fall into a restless, too short sleep and wake as the low hum of a plane waking begins in the early morning.
Tired, needing coffee and a shower we stumble out with the hoard of passengers. We struggle with our bags and stroller and extra 2 duffle bags that my mother commissioned us to bring full of clothes and shoes for her sisters. My husband good naturally bears most of the burden, as I keep our toddler entertained and happy through lines and baggage claim. In the sea of people waiting for their own families, I’m looking for a familiar face. As I scan the faces, I spot my uncle Carlos, my dad’s brother, his wife Hortencia and my dad’s cousin Maria Ester. And as I’m walking towards them, I smile but behind my smile the tears well up and once they come they are a continuous flood that won’t sease.
The years of longing, of feeling misplaced, of being between two nations who are neither mine, I fall into my uncle’s arms and cry. And strangely he feels so familiar and I remember the many times we visited with him and his family and he treated me so kindly. He always had a little trinket or doll to give me and the memories come and they don’t stop. I hold him and in him, I feel my father’s arms and tenderness.
I turn to my aunts and cry with them, and tears really are the only language needed, because there is no making up for time lost, it’s just not possible. Clarity comes and the anxious thoughts leave. I turn and through tears and laughter I introduce them to my husband and baby boy, who bounces right into their arms and relishes in the attention of his family.