Like Hiro from “Heroes” I closed my eyes and the next thing I knew I was standing downtown in Manhattan, the yellow cabs bustling past and all the noise and hubub of New York all around me. I was back in America! It’s been a long way since all the craziness of the tragedy and my refusal to have anything to do with this country. But family is family and you can’t be angry forever. It was time to return and take stock. So here I am at my mother’s apartment in uptown Manhattan, trying to get over jetlag, but joyous at the empinada I ate yesterday evening and the friendliness of all the people on the streets, but most of all to see my mother again. Living across the ocean from her really makes distances hard. And such a relief to open the door and see her standing there.
The big surprise was immigration at Kennedy Airport. Instead of a reenactment of the horror stories that everyone around the world is grumbling about, going through immigration and customs was actually pleasurable. The immigration officer was playing Christmas music on his iPod, with little speakers to fill his cubicle. He gave me a big smile and was a friendly as can be. He asked about Japan at this time of year and wondered if it was cold and people celebrated. Then a song came on the iPod, one by Josh Groban, and the officer lit up like a Christmas tree candle.
“Have you heard of him?” he asked. “Man, a voice like an angel! You’ve got to listen to this.” Then, in spite of all the exhausted passengers waiting on line behind us, he turned up the sound and closed his eyes as the music flooded the immigration hall. I stared at him as if I had entered Wonderland. This was the fearsome American immigration?
Within fifteen minutes we had made it out to the arrival lounge. Ten minutes later a shuttle bus driver drove up and asked us if we wanted to go to the city. Two other passengers, a Japanese woman traveling alone and a Colombian who lived in Atlantic City were huddled in the van together, heading for Port Authority in Manhattan. Bobbing to Salsa on the van CD player we all laughed and shared stories of Japan and working there. I had forgotten how easily Americans speak to each other.
With a quiet night of sleep behind me and a rather warm, sunny Christmas Eve morning to wake up to, the start has been wonderful. I guess as always it is important to just take the steps out of your door and let things come as they may. My brother arrives from Boston this evening and then we can really start laughing and enjoying each others’ company.
I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope you have warm and memorable time with your own families. Deep peace and quiet hearts to everyone.