I have lived in Guatemala for 4 years now. And every year around 4th of July a wave of homesickness rolls over me. I know myself well enough, that now I can kind of anticipate it, but I can’t make it go away. Funny how emotions work like that, huh?
I have always loved the 4th of July. It’s the epitome of summer. BBQs and bare feet. Family and friends gathered around picnic tables. Sun-kissed shoulders and beach hair and finding sand between your toes.
But when you live in another country, where summer is celebrated between the months of January to April and July 4th is just a date on the calendar, it just feels different. Gerber and I talk a lot about this because we both “know” in our heads that our respective independence days are a big deal for each other. Individually, and for our little girl. But it’s so hard because we don’t feel anything. He can tell me all about the “antorchas” and “bandas” and “actos civicos” that are preformed on September 15th, but for me it’s still just a date. I understand what it is and what to expect, but I don’t feel anything. There’s not a collective memory or emotion attached to those things. At least not yet.
And I know the same is true for him. I can tell him about summer BBQs and beach days and how we used to sit on the curb bundled up in sweatshirts eating popsicles, staying up way past our bed time to watch fireworks. He knows all of that, but there is no emotional attachment or collective memory for him. July 4th is just a date.
I think one of the beautiful and challenging things about cross-cultural relationships if you get to celebrate both. Or at least learn how to make space for both. You learn how to empathize, and negotiate and understand things that you’ve never had any reason to understand before. You learn to verbalize and explain things you’ve never had to explain before, because they just are. But when you’re an outsider trying to understand a foreign culture nothing is as it seems to be. And you also learn to accept that there are certain things that can’t be explained or verbalized, they just are. And you learn to accept those things as they are.
We have lots of explaining and trying to understand kind of conversations. Sometimes it’s a lot of work; this cross-cultural, two countries, two languages, two independence days kind of living. But it’s a good work.
And I think one of the reasons we put in energy and time for this “work” is because of this little one.
This little gringa, growing up in Guatemala.
Because we care about her identity and her sense of belonging. She’s too little to remember anything from today. And she certainly won’t remember her first dia de la indpendencia last September.
But my hope is that she starts to build something in that collective memory of hers. So that when she see’s the 4th of July on the calendar she’ll feel excited. And when we get to el 15 de septiembre each year she will also get excited.
Today we celebrated with some other expat friends up at a park overlooking the whole Antigua valley. Gerber left early because of the World Cup because as he said, “You’ll have 4th of July every year, we only have the World Cup every 4 years.” Touché. And I didn’t get any pictures of the adults. But the kiddos were pretty cute. Maybe one year we’ll celebrate 4th of July in the US. We won’t watch any fireworks tonight, but I am thankful that we live in a country where fireworks are enjoyed year around.
Happy 4th of July!
P.S. Did you know that one year Gerber even surprised me for my birthday with fireworks?! And at our wedding we had fireworks right at the start of the ceermony?! Ever since I’ve been a little girl I have always loved fireworks.