The first time I met them was in 2002. My parents and I boarded a plane pointed at Iran (well, it was many planes, and there were all sorts of delays and running around catching cabs and yelling at stupid people behind counters and running to connecting flights and accidentally stumbling into the red light district in Amsterdam with my parents, but that’s really neither here nor there). I was going to meet my family for the first time. But here’s the thing, they were only family in theory to me. Family in name, yes, but I’d never met them. Never even talked to them on the phone. So, I was excited, but I was also nervous. I was spending two weeks with a small army’s worth of strangers who shared a last name and the slightest of resemblances to me and we didn’t even speak the same language. I spent the majority of the flights sleeping and trying to figure out on a scale of 1 to Michael Cerra how awkward things were going to be.
And then I stepped off the plane. And as we got our bags and went through security something inside me clicked. When I saw them waiting on the other side of that metal gate I knew. My brain might not have been there yet, but my body knew, my bones knew. This was my family.
I spent two weeks there, getting to know them, letting them get to know me and basically falling in love. Two weeks of sight seeing and so much food my clothes barely fit and cousins (so many cousins!) and seeing the town where my father grew up. Getting on the plane to go back home was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
The day after Christmas 2010 my dad and I piled into his car and pointed it towards Toronto. My aunt and two of my cousins moved to Canada about six months ago. I was almost as nervous for this trip as I was the first time I saw them. I was cool to my cousin when she was eight and barely spoke any English, but sixteen and speaking my own language? Teenagers scare me, yo. Even ones I’m related to. Even ones that gave me a tiny, red velvet bear to hold onto when I flew back to the states so I wouldn’t be alone. A bear that I still have.
Turns out I didn’t need to worry. She may not be eight anymore, and I may not be able to pick her up and carry her around, but she’s still just as awesome. Moreso, even. They all are.
It was only three days this time, and we spent a good majority of that crammed into the back seat of my dad’s car while we drove around Toronto and visited family. Three days of food, and family and skypeing with family in Iran and making a fool out of myself via xbox kinect games.
I also got to show off my new ink.
It’s ‘family’ in Farsi and it’s in my dad’s handwriting. Dina over a Voluta Tattoo did an amazing job, don’t you think?
We may have gone eight years in between visits, but it doesn’t make our bond any less. My body is different around them, more alert. Reminding me that these people are important. That even when I’m struggling through the roughest year of my life my family will always be there.
And I couldn’t love them more if I tried.