In Between

By Maria Capezio Crookes

I am often asked about my immigrant experience, about the things that I miss, the things that I don’t, and if I’d move back home. My answers have been a variation of, “Of course, I miss my family and friends, my people.” Or “I would move back, so my kids can grow closer to their cousins.” For many years I believed those words. After some time, I’d smile while answering with the usual polite platitudes, feeling the leap in my heart telling me I was full of it. Yes, you miss your family, but you wouldn’t move back, my heart would say, while my brain would push that thought far down into my stomach, until the familiar nausea of the truth would make its appearance. 

Yes, I miss my family, my places. I miss the familiarity of the easy conversations, the unplanned visits, the long drives, the unprompted meriendas in the gallery. Even the humid summers and non-existent winters. But I wouldn’t move back. And the reasons are more nuanced than simple considerations of my kids and spouse and the life we built here, together. 

Yes, I miss my family, and the moments that we didn’t share, but I am not the same person I was when I left. I grew up, unlearned and relearned a lot. Being so far away, I was able to see things from a different perspective. By walking away, I saw the bigger picture with brand new eyes. I felt a lot of guilt for leaving—loneliness and even a sense of being forgotten. I imagined the movie moments, of running to someone in the airport, someone who had driven a few hours to pick us up, someone who was eager to meet us and see us again. 

And then, I traveled home during summer break. And the movie moment in the airport didn’t happen. Anger, loneliness, shame, humiliation, guilt, awkwardness replaced the moments I imagined and played in my head so many times. I felt so lonely in a room full of people who have known me my entire life, but don’t know me at all. I was ready to leave and never come back. 

This trip was the first time traveling using my US passport; the first time coming home since my parents moved out of the house we called home for more than 20 years; the first time that my abuelita’s home didn’t smell like her; the first time the people I used to call my closest friends didn’t make an effort to see us or spend time with us; the first time I wanted to leave before the first week was over. 

The entire time, it felt as if I had a dark cloud over my head, over my heart, my soul. I don’t belong anywhere. I don’t have a home anymore. The childhood memories that kept creeping up were the ones that I tried so hard to forget. “They don’t know who I am anymore,” I told my husband while sobbing. I was grieving a life that wasn’t mine anymore, but that I craved for. I really wanted to be happy then, feel like I imagined I was going to feel when spending time with the big family we are supposed to be. I envied my child, who would sneak out to bed early, with the excuse of being tired, and needing some quiet time. I envied my husband, who would read for hours, ignoring everything around him. 


During this trip, I remembered a woman I had met my first time traveling to the US to be with the man I would marry. Maybe in her 80’s, she had left Argentina many decades ago, and couldn’t bring herself to speak Spanish with me. The few words we exchanged in Spanish, I could hear an accent that was out of place. I used to wonder how you could make it to that point, to the point of not being able to speak your maternal language naturally anymore, and used to pray I would never get there. 

It’s been 17 years since that flight that took me to Oklahoma City. And I feel I am in between that woman full of dreams and expectations leaving home for the first time, and that woman I met, who was leaving home to be home. 

I am in between being able to speak in Spanish only with my family in Argentina, and not being able to be creative in Spanish anymore; in between being Argentinian, to finding my identity as a LatinX woman in the United States; in between listening to music in Spanish to feel closer to home and talking to some people to remember why it is not home anymore; in between writing words like these, knowing I would never share them with my family, and translating them so they can finally know how it felt. 

I am not who I was when I left, but I am not sure who I am now. I wonder if in the journey of finding my creative side, I’ll find who I am supposed to be. Or if there is even a chance (or a point) for that. 

While I try to figure all of that out, I’ll make some mates and watch my kids grow. Hopefully, they’ll have a better idea of who they are in the in-between world where they live. 

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