Thursday, June 28, 2012

Meeting my Long Lost Argentinean Relatives For The First Time

(I'm the one on the far right)
I haven’t even made it halfway through my first week in Argentina and my mother has informed me that three of my cousins have planned a family dinner. The first thought that crossed my mind was ... OH CRAP!

The only two people I vividly remember before I left Argentina are my maternal grandmother and my uncle Luis. She died about 12 years ago from natural causes. He died in a tragic bus accident at the age of 40. I had no memory of any other family members. Now this entire family wanted to meet me as if I was their version of a celebrity but I was very nervous about the upcoming reunion.

My family and I kept to ourselves when I was growing up in Florida. We didn’t really have a group of friends come over and our families were too far away. I learned to accept this anti-social way of life as normal. Even after I moved out on my own I had a hard time socializing with new people. Now I’m back in the country of my birth after a 35 year absence. Thirteen people are anxious to meet with me and all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole.

First impressions can be fatal if one says the wrong thing and I have the bad habit of really stepping in it. Logic and verbal communication doesn’t always work well with me.

Saturday night came. My cousin Chuly was the first person I met. However, we had stayed in touch by e-mail in the months before my big move to Argentina. I was also introduced to her son, who’s adorable. Then my cousin Sandy and her husband arrived with their son. Finally, my cousin Hugh and his wife arrived with their teenage kids. They were delightful people. Within moments, I felt like I’d known them for years.

 I had some trouble explaining things at first because I think in English first. Then I have to translate it into Spanish. Unfortunately, Argentinean Spanish is a little different than the Spanish I heard growing up in Florida from Cubans and Puerto-Ricans. Argentineans Spanish is a mixture of Spanish with Italian dialect. So when I spoke I could tell there was some confusion but they understood me for the most part.

What I loved the most about my family is that they were very welcoming to my spouse. Right before we ate we got a standing ovation at the dinner table. It felt great!

In the United States I often felt like an outsider. Sure I had friends whom I considered dear to me. Some I even considered family, but I haven’t had the best experiences with those who claimed to be my friend and then stabbed me in the back. What’s more, I don’t have any children (but I’d like to someday either through a surrogate or adoption). So I felt like I was the lone survivor of my family line. But after this family reunion my life no longer feels empty and seeing the next generation of children from my cousins felt great. It made me feel like I was connected to this heritage and these people and I finally stopped feeling alone. 

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