I remember the day of our kindergarten graduation, it was sometime in May 1987 in San Luis Potosí, Mexico.
Back in the days there were no digital phones with cameras and most families didn’t own a personal camera. In those days, professional photographers were available around the school to take pictures after graduation. It would take a couple of days to develop the pictures and then photographers would go to the family’s house and personally deliver them in exchange for their service. This is how it was done in Mexico in the 80’s during school graduations, before disposable and digital cameras were available.
The day on my kindergarten graduation, one such photographer approached my Mom and asked her if she wanted to have a graduation picture taken. My Mom agreed. The photographer would usually take two pictures, one of the child and another one with the child’s family. In my case, the photographer took one of me as I received my kindergarten diploma and then he asked my Mom who she wanted to have on the picture for the second one. Having my cousins only a short distance away, my Mom asked us all to gather around for a picture. I remember feeling very happy that my cousins were around at that moment. Having a picture taken with them made this day special, one that I still remember up until this day. My cousins loved the idea as well and they listened to my Mom’s command. The photographer snapped the picture.
This is how one of my best childhood memories became captured in this photograph.
24 years have passed since I left my grandmother’s house, the place where I grew up with my cousins. This is the house where I spent the early years of my childhood and so my cousins became more than just cousins, they were my cousin-sisters. In Mexico, the term primo hermano is used to describe cousins, whose mothers are sisters or brothers and they’re brought up together in the same house. They become more than regular cousins, almost like sisters or brothers.
We always played together despite our mothers’ quarrels and disagreements. Sometimes our mothers wouldn’t allow us to play together because they weren’t talking to each other. But we were just children and like most children we disregarded our mother’s wishes and still played together.
We loved playing out in the streets. Our favorite place to play was Los Juegos or the neighborhood’s playground; a fenced, private playground just a short walk from my grandmother’s house. We would also play outside my grandmother’s house. Our favorite games were hopscotch, hide-and-seek, and tag as well as many other pretend plays that elementary school-age children played before the invention of iPads and video games.
Everything changed as we grew older, more so after my family and I migrated to the United States. The long-distance, along with problems in the family, and that certain magic that a child abandons as they get older, damaged whatever relationship we had as children.
Through the following years, I always tried to visit my cousins on the few times I went back to Mexico. But every time I went back to visit them they grew more distant towards me. Eventually, there was not much of a relationship between us to speak of. It was my grandmother’s passing three years ago, that moved me to reach out to them. It was an effort to comfort one another as we came to terms with the loss of our grandmother. That is when I realized that you cannot just go back to how things once where and pick up where you left off. Somehow, I thought that our treasured childhood memories were enough to remind them of the relationship we used to have. It wasn’t.
I mentioned in my tribute in my grandmother’s post, The Ones We Leave Behind, that one of “the hardest part for those of us who leave families and relatives behind in our native country in order to better our lives, is the day, the hour, the minute when we get the news that our grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, beloved friend or family member passed away.” But I would also like to add that another painful process is the realization of a lost relationship, not due to death (loss of them physically), but because distance and time withered the relationship.
I have lost many of these relationships as a result of migrating to another country. Some of those relationships were lost because of distance and time, and some, like the ones with my cousins, involved other factors. All these realizations are part of my grieving process; the grieving process of moving to another country as a child and leaving my previous life behind.
I haven’t given up on my cousins. In my heart and mind, they remain my childhood companions and are part of some of the most treasured memories I have.
It is my hope and promise from God that I will be reunited with my far-away cousins once more, and although we might not be able to just pick up where we left off and continue the relationship we once had as children, I am certain that a new relationship with them is on its way!