“You know, I want to go back to Caracas now.”
It caught me off guard to hear my five year old daughter say this. It’s been almost a year since we came out to live in self-imposed economic exile. But she said it like, you know, our life here is cool and everything, but I want to go back home. I wasn’t really prepared for it.
“We can’t right now” I stamered.
She resumed her playing/fighting activities with her brother.
It began in February. Every single day, one of the kids would ask.
“Mom, can we go back home?”
Every time I had to deflect.
“Not right now; Maybe tomorrow; It’s already dark out, no planes fly at this hour; But we are living here now; We will go in August, for your school vacation; Oh look! A bird!”
Sometimes they would stuff their teddy bear, a book and a pair of socks in their school bags and declare themselves ready to return to their former home. I would again, gently explain that we could not possibly leave now, Dad was at work, where we to leave him behind?, absolutely not, we better wait for him. Oh Look, another bird!
Other days they would just come up to me annoyed and whine:
“Moooooooom, when are we going back?
And I would, with all the mastery and trickery in the world, offer them chocolate, talk about “My little Pony” and make dumb fart jokes to make them forget what they asked in the first place.
We haven’t lived in Venezuela for about 9 months now. But this January we went back to finish up some paperwork and bring more stuff that had been left behind. We stayed a month or so.
But then it was time to fly back out. As the dreaded departure date neared, we said our goodbyes a second time. My father in law took us down to the airport. This time, he, my Nana and my mom, stayed to watch us go through immigration control. My son, held on tight to his grandpa’s hand, urging him to come with us. This man, almost 60 years old, big and burly, seemed very old that day to me. He looked so small and grey.
I explained, the best way I could, to my little 3 year old boy, that Grandpa couldn’t come. I broke their embrace and carried my weeping son in one arm, while tugging my little girl with the other.
Heart broken doesn’t even began to explain it.
And the question kept coming. “Mom, when do we get to go home?”
And finally, one day, I fucked up. My daughter was badgering me for the umpteenth time, and I answered:
“We can’t go back to Caracas or Venezuela right now, it’s too dangerous, it’s safer here, so we are going to stay here.”
Phew! She seemed to accept it, and I think she can understand this.
Suddenly, my daughter’s face began contorting in an weird way and she screamed, with tears in her eyes:
“BUT ANA IS IN CARACAS!”
Dammit, Dammit, Dammit! What do I do, what do I say?
Crisis control CRISIS CONTROL
“Don’t worry” I said “Ana is in San Cristobal!”
“But she will go back to Caracas, and it’s dangerous! You said so” She answered, big fat tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Dont worry, Ana knows how to take care of herself, but you and your brother are little, that’s why you couldn’t stay” I blurted out half-truths.
She calmed down a bit, thinking things over. It sounded logical enough. and she relaxed.
As the time goes by, the Return to Caracas issue is fading.
Still, every week or so I get:
“Can we go back to Caracas?”
“Can we go visit Ana?”
“Can we go visit Sophia and Ma. Alejandra?”
“Can we go see Grandpa?”
But now, my daughter answers herself right after:
“No right?, Because it’s still dangerous.”
And it keeps hurting each and every time.