© 2018 Janvieve Williams Comrie 

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Family Based Holidays: Resisting, Adjusting, Accommodating and Loving.

I've been meaning to write for quite sometime- since Thanks-taking really, about how holidays for me- if I am in the US are just a horrible mental, emotional and physical ordeal that can change minute by minute and/or hour by hour, even day by day, and no matter how much meditation, workout, hugs, kisses, etc. nothing helps to shift it.

This year, while no different, I was open to other possibilities (read running away!), so for the Thanksgiving, we decided to visit one of my first and best friends/sister after I became a migrant. I met Catherina when I was 16 years old, she is one of my longest standing family friends, our parents, both immigrants from different countries (India and Panama), also became friends while we lived in Toronto. Being with her family in Maryland, feels like home. Both of us have partners born and raised in this country, and we both navigate similar emotions, including isolation, loneliness and trying to find our footing in a country that is still foreign to us. We each have a set of two children, whom gladly or regrettably (it depends on the day) ground us in the cities where we live. For me personally, my children are a daily reminder of why I exist where I do. And I wonder how long I will continue living through them as I do. It's literally present for me all the time. And the feeling of living and existing for my children in the US is constant, and at times feels like a chocking sensation as I am working, sleeping, or simply being. And it could mean, heart palpitations, eating binges, extreme laziness or working out insensibly, high productivity or lack of desire to even open my computer and send those darn invoices. You never know.


Yes, I am in a position where I can travel out of the country, and it is a privilege that I do not take lightly, and yes I also recognize that it takes money to travel, thus saving each and every penny that I can because my parents and extended family do live in Panama (and I know that there is privilege even within being able to save money). I have even chosen a professional career that allows me to travel and escape even if for a little bit. I cannot be quiet in one place it seems. Sounds bananas, but it is what it is. Will expand on this point in another post, or book.


Christmas, I usually love! I get to get out of the country and go home (Panama), or as we did last year go to Mexico to be with chosen family and their family as well. I stayed in the US once in 2010, when I was pregnant with my son and could not fly and since then, I committed to save up all my money for the yearly get out of the US for the holidays fund, because it was an experience that brought the worst out of me. But 2019 has been different. Tickets to go home to be with my parents were exceptionally expensive and I was not able to afford the expense for our whole family, so bringing my parents here was a sound economical decision to make. But it means being in the US, in the cold frigid weather. It also means having to confront what I usually escape since a big piece of home has now come to me, in my US home. So why the emotional incertitude that I am feeling? For starters the US-Panama Invasion happened on the 20th of December so there was a moment were we were all in our feelings in my living room, remembering those moments where we found that they had starting invading, if in Panama, I think we would have been out as we were few years ago, painting a mural or going to one of the many public programs to honor the victims. But not in the house. This year we were.... doing errands and in the house- bad combination for that specific day.


I've never put up my own christmas tree, much to Omars (partner) chagrin. I've thought it is a waste of money and for for what reason. My mother has always prided herself on her christmas decorations and since we are usually there, I get to enjoy my childhood ornaments, all the old arts and crafts that I made in school at their house in my home in Panama. I have been labelled as a grinch in my house, but it is not that I dislike christmas, I dislike christmas in the US. My daughter, who shares my mothers and partners love for christmas, enrolled us all to get a tree. Yes an expensive ass tree that is now in my living room. I shed a tear when my mother was patiently decorating the tree the other day with both the children. I think I also felt like a grown ass adult that has made a home for her children, and being able to share that with my parents in the same room opened up for me a sense that this is part of the sacrifice that I am making.


My mother's celebrates her birthday on the 22nd and always has a big family gathering at their house, a very Panamanian birthday with torrejitas de bacalao, salsa, merenge and musica tipica and plenty of amaretto sours to go around. This year, we hosted a birthday party for her, and my chosen family was in my house in the Bronx. But instead of the delicious greasy glistening torrejitas, we instead had vegan fetuchini alfredo, a live apple pie cooking class, drumming circles, and songs from Mary J Blige, Jerry Rivera, Mariah Carey and Method man were sang during Karaoke.


I did not know where this reflection was going when I decided to write it. I only knew that I had lots to share and I'm trying to write from subconscious rather than from my cerebral self. What I did get to learn is that I am a work in progress, we all are and what I am creating is a continuous act of resisting, adjusting, accommodating and loving not only myself, but a reality that I am constantly revisiting, deconstructing, reorganizing and learning to not only enjoy but also love.



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