I cried at Costco today.
I didn't mean to. And I didn't see it coming.
It's been a tough week in a lot of ways, and I scooted out by myself just before dinner time. I was wandering kind of aimlessly, kind of toward the rotisserie chickens, when I heard a woman behind me talking on her cell phone. In Spanish. And then WHAM! that wave of emotional nostalgia that you didn't know was there but hits you really hard when it comes, well, it came.
When I was a kid, I was around the Spanish language a lot. My mom was born in Cuba, and while she adopted the U.S. culture and became a citizen, her parents never learned English when they came here. (Stupid Castro. He was supposed to fail so they could go back to their beloved homeland. They never thought they'd spend the rest of their lives here, as grateful as they were for the refuge of the U.S.) Growing up, we lived in the same town as my grandparents, and my sister and I spent every Friday night at their house for many years. Somehow we got by just fine, even with the language barrier between us. Every phone call, every visit, every holiday - filled with that lovely language. My aunt would come into town and the Spanish-speaking would quadruple. Sometimes those sisters thought they were pulling a fast one on my sister and me, as if we hadn't learned enough of the language on those Friday night sleepovers to follow a conversation, and they'd talk about something they didn't want us to hear, in Spanish, even though my grandparents were nowhere around. I grew up speaking a sort of Spanglish, but I could always understand a thousand times more than I could speak. Something about being immersed in it all those years, without ever being expected to really speak it.
We just passed the 12th anniversary of my grandfather's death. That was a hard time for my mom, as she had been the one caring for him for most of his adult life, especially in his later years. It put a strain on her relationship with her sister. Several years went by without us seeing my aunt, and all the while I was busy having babies and building my life with my new family.
My grandma did not do well after she lost her husband. She had been hard of hearing her entire adult life, likely from factory work she had done when they arrived in this country. It was difficult to carry a conversation with her, so things got much quieter without my Abuelo around. She slipped into a deep state of dementia, and then, nearly two years ago now, we lost my Abuela too.
There's no one left for my mom to talk to in Spanish. So she doesn't.
I hadn't really thought about this loss in my life. Things like that, they just seem to fade into the background while life keeps moving forward.
But that woman in Costco, speaking loud and proud in her native language, it could have been my mom 20 years ago, catching up with her sister. Me walking along side, hanging onto the cart. For a split second it was.
And that's when that wave hit me. Like losing my Abuelos all over again, but in a new way. And feeling the loss of my childhood too.
My life today is blessed beyond reason, but it's also trying, and these days are wracked with third trimester hormones that sometimes get the best of me. I was pretty embarrassed when those tears came with people bustling all around me in the store, but I'm grateful now for that little reminder. Sometimes it's good to stop and remember.