And it's true - I sometimes do.
Early mornings here in Baltimore with the birds talking and the sun beating in through my window and turning certain rooms into a temporary solarium - I've daydreamed about Lima a lot. Trading Baltimore's pigeons for Lima's doves, the urban grit for desert sand.
Leading up to this year's travels to Lima, I've tried to capture the moments in my memory. The smells, the sounds, the warmth. Sitting in my "office" (and I put it in quotation marks because it has yet to really develop into a fully functional office space. It's more of a storage unit for deck furniture cushions that also happens to have desks and a printer), I've been leaving the door to the deck open so that I can feel the sunshine on my toes (despite the cold air) and hear the sounds of the city. It reminds me of being on the roof of my grandmother's home in Lima and hearing all the sounds of the surrounding homes, the doves, the whistles of the ice-cream man.
Problem is, there's a vast difference between Lima and pretending that Baltimore is Lima. So by the time March 7th rolled around, I was VERY ready to break free of Charm City for South America.
My extended family lives in Lima and my first trip there was at the age of about 6 weeks and I've been going ever since - and I took it for granted for most of that time. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I realized how fortunate I was to have traveled there a dozen or more times. When I was a child, it seemed that no one even knew where Peru was.
"Peru? Is that in Africa?" asked a Sunday School teacher (yes, an adult) in the weeks leading up to my trip in 1988.
Those sorts of questions and comments, over time and as Peru has become a safer travel destination, have transformed into "I have ALWAYS wanted to go there!" or "That's my dream trip!" or " Before I die, I want to see Machu Picchu." And then I glow and gush and smile as I realize that I'm a pretty damn lucky gal.
I love visiting my family there - and for the first time in several years, my entire immediate family was going to have the opportunity to go. As we've gotten older finances, and work, and children, and mortgages, and all the responsibility that often comes with growing up has prevented us from being able to make the trip every year. There were 20 (!!) of us gringos traveling south this year; only two in diapers.
My grandmother's home - Mamita's house - has hosted us since I was born. My father grew up in that home. When it was built - some 60+ years ago now - it was the only house on that block and one of only three in the entire county. It is now surrounded on all sides by the bustling district of Miraflores in Lima. The house is like a large and never ending loop that brings you outside, then inside, and then outside again as you walk up and through it. The distinction between outdoor and in is almost unnoticeable and with 25 people in the house (9 of which were children under the age of 10), the noise and activity was as never ending as the home itself. Walking through the loop, each room brought a new scene and a new conversation - reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film (1970s nostalgia included - little red caps not).
My nieces and nephews learned to slide down the wide bannister just like we did when we were little and I'm sure my father and his siblings did when they were small. The bannister - although made of concrete - is worn completely smooth from years of devious play on the stairs despite scoldings of how dangerous it is.
The ice-cream man, Chichi, blows his whistle from down the street and the sound echoes up through the house and courtyard sending everyone out to get a treat (and donate to Chichi's retirement fund. He loves us gringos).
My grandfather's old study is particularly special - old photos, old books, old certificates and diplomas guard the walls and try to hide the chips and cracks in the concrete - but fail. This is the first visit here since my grandfather passed away of stomach cancer last year.
Some places in the house still smell like him a little.
The home is huge and is becoming too much for Mamita to care for on her own. Odds are when we return next year that it will have been sold; possibly even leveled in favor of building another apartment building - they're becoming so popular in that area now.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't shed several tears for the loss. And
those won't be the last either. I'm a sucker for nostalgia. I live for
my memories. I'm sentimental - and I've got the clutter to prove it,
much to my husband's chagrin. I'm not the only person in my family this
way - I come from a long line of loud, passionate, sentimental people.
And sharing some light tears and virtual smiles with my Tia Martha last
night over Skype, we talked about exactly that: nostalgia, and memories,
and the sentimental stuff that makes you all misty eyed. And I told her
"Tia, change is good. Without it there would still just be you and your
siblings living at Mamita's house. No grandchildren. No
And for once, I'm right.
pains are going to be a bitch, but they're good for us. And when the
time actually comes, we'll bid farewell to the home with lots and lots
of passionate Latin tears. And it will suck. But the truth will remain
that we've all made some pretty amazing, lovely, fun, crazy memories in
that home - and those stories will far outlive any of us.