lo que bien se quiso nunca se olvida. (that which you greatly loved is never forgotten.)
I have cried three times today: first, while watching a video of a little girl crying because her parents told her that one day her baby brother would get old; second, because I read a story about a teen cancer survivor whose insurance company refused to pay for his dentures that he needed because years of radiation had destroyed his teeth; and finally, because I started reading a Cuban cookbook my mom gave me and I realized finally, after a month, that I live here now. In my post earlier this evening, I said that I was sure the feelings would be coming but I wasn’t aware of how soon. Ian is sleeping, or trying to sleep, and I’m in the living room crying about all the things I couldn’t really cry about until now.
I have been here a whole month and it’s been a good one, busy and social and full of people I had met and grown to love and people I hadn’t met but who love me already and just very full. Everyone reminds me that things are social in the summer because when it starts to get cold, everyone will start to stay in, bundle up, not want to be out and about as much; this is new and strange for me. I’m so grateful for all the love I feel here, as much love as you could possibly feel when you move over a thousand miles away, especially from Ian who I learn not only to love and communicate with but how to share space with on a permanent basis. I learn how persnickety we both can be but I also learn how much love can make us softer and more generous with the time and space that used to belong to each of us and that we now share. I am so grateful for the time we spent apart, that we learned how to talk things through and communicate because we had no other choice, but I am also grateful for this, for the chance to have this shared life. It’s early days but it’s still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever been a part of.
Yet I’m crying at 1 am on the couch. Probably because I didn’t really cry when I drove away from Florida. Probably because I apply for jobs and get anxious when I don’t hear back the very next day. Probably because I worry about being a burden. Probably because I am the person who is hardest on myself and even when I know better, I want to do more and have everything be just right in just a few weeks. It’s a lot of things. I am doing my best to enjoy every day, to learn as I go and to take even the smallest things as they come, to be as excited about finding a coffee shop I love within walking distance of our apartment as I am about the big milestones the future will bring. I am trying to quiet the voice in my head that says I need to not only do everything right but do everything right now.
I forgot to pack all this Cuban coffee my parents bought me because it didn’t really fit in my car and I’ve spent every grocery trip since I’ve moved wandering down the coffee and latin aisles, looking for Bustelo or whatever is closest to that. I’ve had no luck so far (I haven’t tried Latin-specific markets yet, to be fair) and Ian always apologizes when this happens and I brush it off and reassure him that it’s fine and it is fine but it also feels weird that I cannot find this thing that I could find anywhere back home. I put it in the back of my mind and asked my dad the last time we spoke on the phone if he could send me all that Cuban coffee he had bought me.
Something snapped tonight. Little moments had happened here and there. Like, I laughed watching a little kid in the park last week attempt to swordfight a goose and muttered, “que barbaro!" (literally, "how barbaric" but more of a meaning like outrageous and funny) to myself, leaving myself thinking about how I’ll probably be the only person in my immediate family up here to not only teach my kids Spanish but to teach it to them. I got really happy the other day when I was waiting for Ian outside the AGO and a Spanish-speaking family near me was trying to figure out directions. They looked surprised as I politely interrupted them in Spanish and helped them sort out where to go, as even in when I live in a place with as many white people as Ontario I still read as Italian or Greek or something, anything besides what I am. I am always secretly excited when people speak Spanish to each other near me on the subway. I smile when I think about the fact that one of the middle names we’ve picked for a future daughter is decidedly Spanish.
This cookbook was the breaking point. I was making notes and folding pages and trying to figure out things I wanted to make, which was everything, especially the things I’ve never made before because I could just go to a bakery or store or restaurant or even the big supermarket because even they sold empanadas and pastelitos and buy them in a second. I got very anxious as I folded so many pages. All I could think was that, sure, I’d made a lot of these things but that I hadn’t really had to learn how to make them well, that’s what my grandmother and the rest of my family was for, why would I need to be really comfortable and good at making these things when I had my abuelita?
It not only suddenly hit me that I would be far away from my family who knew how to make all of these things I was raised on, things that I loved and were a part of my memory and self, but that one day, they would pass away and I’d be the only person (only child, only grandchild) who could teach my kids about this part of my childhood, my heritage, their heritage. I got ready for bed when Ian said he felt sleepy but all I could do was lie in bed and struggle to breathe.
All I could think about was the fact that I needed a food processor so I could make bocadito paste because I couldn’t just go buy those little sandwiches anymore. All I could think was that Ian and I are tentatively thinking about starting to try and get pregnant around my 30th birthday and that’s not much more than two years away and that I needed to cook everything in this cookbook by then a few times so I would be really good at it by the time my kid was old enough to eat dulce de toronja and ropa vieja. All I could think was that I needed to figure out a way to permanently learn and document and never, ever forget anything my parents and grandparents ever told me and taught me about my background and my family and who is who in every old photo that they literally snuck out of Cuba and who originally owned the jewelry in Havana that they’ve handed down to me after my grandma sewed rings and necklaces and pins into the lining of her bra so she would be able to get it past the guards checking her as they got on the plane to come to the US.
All I could think about was that my grandparents arrived with my mom who was a tiny girl in March 1960 something (something else to ask!) and the government sent them to live in a small town in Indiana where a cousin of theirs had been sent, like other Cubans who were sent all over so they could assimilate faster and not form communities. All I could think about was how they arrived on St. Patrick’s Day and it was the first time any of them had seen snow and how the first job my grandpa got was as a lumberjack chopping down trees in the middle of winter. All I could think about was how the exact details about how my dad came to the US are blurry to me and how I needed to know more. All I could think about was how my family were immigrants and how they had to start over and how they had to build a life in a place where everything was different and how all they ever wanted was for me to have it easier, to never have to go through what they went through as immigrants and here I am, a 27 year old immigrant who is literally in the easiest possible version of this kind of situation and I am crying at 1 am because I know I can’t make platanos the way my grandma can.
And it’s not even that being here makes me feel more Cuban. There have been so many ways in which I haven’t felt Cuban enough before: because of where I grew up, because of my interests, because of how I look, because of so many reasons. When you’re a teenager, you want to fit in and be like everyone else and none of my friends were Cuban so I didn’t care about the traditions I grew up with. Then you get older and you want to be different and unique on your own terms so you rebel against everything and everyone you know and just thrash around for a bit. Then it seems, you just sort of settle down and take pieces of everything you’ve experienced to be whoever it is you’re going to be and you start to look at things differently, especially time. I have always been interested in time and people and history but it’s only in the recent past that I’ve found how fast it goes. I’ve been trying to hold onto it and am trying to hold on and learn as much as I can while I can because I know this, like some of the best things in my life, won’t last forever.
I am happy overall, I’m happy with how my life is beginning and how it looks like it will turn out here, from what I can see so far, that is. Ian and I are going to have a family, we are a family already, and it won’t be like the one I grew up with; to be fair, it won’t be like the one he grew up with either. I guess that’s the case for everyone even when you’re not a gender swapped I Love Lucy. And I’m scared because I know how big this is, how important it is to make a life you love and are content with and proud of. I’m scared of doing the wrong thing or forgetting something and failing everyone I’ve ever loved and the ones I have yet to love. I know you can’t go back and I don’t even want to but it’s still so hard to leave.
I wouldn’t even dare call my mom right now, crying like this. She would tell me I’d be ok, that I’d carry on the important things, the things that made me who I am and the things that mattered, that the rest is details and window dressing, that as long as I could tell someone how my family made me feel, what it feels like to be Cuban, that would be what really mattered not how good your rabo encendido. She would remind me that she can’t cook a single Cuban thing, not even badly, and that her Spanish is worse than mine and I still turned out ok. And she would tell me what my grandma always told her and what her mom told her and what is the most important in life, in everything, that I’ve learned from my family: to move forward and not to step back, never, not even to gain momentum. I’m not sure how but I’m doing it; I’m sure of few things (myself, my love, my dreams) but I’m doing it.
happy national lipstick day! in honor of my second truest love.
top row: joe fresh baie sauvage, nars hear wave & ysl orange de chine, ysl violet incognito
second row: aveda berry bud, a few of my pretties, mac dubonnet
bottom row: mac rebel, urban decay naked, mac girl about town
it’s only a #tbt to this past Saturday but as I’ve lied here with another terrible cold and fever, it’s been good to have this one taking care of me.
The first time I ever came to visit Canada was a few years ago on Canada Day itself. I was really anxious about meeting Ian’s family and friends, annoying the crap out of my flight seat mate by shaking my leg for the whole trip. Ian and his dad picked me up from the airport and I felt a little more at ease but still internally freaking out for the most part that I was going to meet the rest of his family the next day. That night, Ian’s best friend Julia made me a beautiful turkey dinner (yes, in July) with help from their good friends Lauren and Charlotte to welcome me to Canada; I felt like I was at home with my friends and I could feel how much they loved Ian. Instead of being the kind of people to be wary of this person their good friend was in love with, they welcomed me with open arms. I have rarely felt as comfortable with new friends as quickly as I did with Lauren and Charlotte, primarily because they seemed so comfortable together, at ease and just so generous with their time and kindness.
We were so thrilled when they got engaged last year and I was so glad to be in Canada last year for their engagement party. When they asked me to not only come to their wedding but to be their stylist for the big day, I was so honored; thank god immigration made it so I got here in time! Much like our big day almost two years ago, Lauren and Charlotte were so calm and at peace when their wedding day rolled around. I headed over to their house to help them and Julia get ready and Lauren was the picture of calmness, much like Ian was on our wedding day; Charlotte had a bit more nerves which I could definitely relate to. Not because of the idea of getting married, of course, but just because you want everything to go so perfectly. Helping them all get ready was a pleasure, there’s nothing I love more than helping people feel beautiful on this kind of day. And I got Julia to not only wear but love how she looked in a bright lip which is obviously my main mission in life.
The ceremony and reception were at the Belwood Lake Conservation Area, specifically in Hampton Barn which overlooks a beautiful wooded area and lake. Lauren and Charlotte spent a year thrifting for all the vintage floral plates they used and it looked darling with the bunting and handpainted signs done by their good friend. The ceremony was outside in a grassy area and was short and sweet but lovely. The clouds had looked threatening all day but the light misting rain we got didn’t start until the ceremony was over thank goodness. We quickly took photos and headed inside the barn; lawn games would have to wait till brunch the next day.
Their wedding had so many touches that were just lovely and personal. In order to find your table number, you had to find your photo on this table covered with frames and it would reveal your number on the back. Everyone got to take their photos home too which is such a nice way to always think of the day as well as Lauren and Charlotte. I love how they included their friends and family in every part of the overall design from having me do hair and makeup to their friend who designed the invites and signs to their friend who brews beer providing two delicious beers including a brown ale (“Where the Mild Things Are” it was called) and a hefeweizen that was so, so good; Ian was shocked because he’s not normally a wheaty beer lover. The other beer they had came from a small local brewery called Royal City which had a tasting just the night before the wedding that Ian and I attended. I’m in love with the Morning Stout which has coffee and oatmeal flavors in it.
They had this amazing First Nations food truck do the food and appetizers did not disappoint: asparagus wrapped in wild boar bacon, venison meatballs with a blueberry reduction, and rice paper rolls. All the local Ontario flavors were incredible and the food design was surprising but also just so right once you tasted it. Dinner didn’t disappoint either with deconstructed Indian tacos (fry bread with chili and vegetables and basil creme fraiche), bison sliders with caramelized onions and cheddar on beer/onion/cheddar buns, and heirloom tomato and cucumber salad. I wanted to eat a billion more bison sliders but I knew I’d explode.
I’m a sucker for speeches at weddings. It’s the main reason Ian and I are planning on having a belated wedding reception/anniversary party next year; there’s just something so wonderful about having the people you care about so much telling funny and embarrassing and loving stories about you. I teared up a bit during some of the speeches because I’m generally a crier and because there was just such a beautiful feeling in the room of togetherness and love for these two awesome people. Lauren and Charlotte took such a personal interest in putting together this beautiful day for everyone and their speech definitely made me tear up; I full on started crying when they thanked me for helping with their styling. I told you, I’m a crier.
The night finished with coffee from the lovely coffee truck parked outside the barn (what a great idea!), cupcakes that literally shocked me and Ian, like shocked us out of our previous beliefs about cupcakes (FILLED WITH CARAMEL), and dancing to tons of great music but specifically Faded by Soul Decision which just confirmed how much I am meant to live in Canada due to my shameless love for it. In fact, I danced so aggressively to it that I unbuttoned Ian’s shirt with my shoulder somehow. This day would have been enough to be the most perfect wedding ever but then they hosted us all at the barn the next day for brunch where we ate peanut butter & jelly muffins, sausage rolls the size of my damn head from Eric the Baker, and a rosé/orange juice combination Ian created that was shockingly delicious. Lawn games were on thankfully and we had a great game of croquet in which I not only beat Ian but came in third overall so not bad for someone who hasn’t played since she was six. I think I’d like to get a croquet set so I can play in High Park with friends and also have a picnic with cheese and wine. Any takers?
It was a beautiful weekend and Ian and I are so happy we were able to be a part of Lauren and Charlotte’s day. They are honestly one of the most meant couples I’ve ever met and I’m so excited to see and be a part of the rest of their beautiful life together. Also, the weekend has kind of led to Ian and I beginning to think more seriously about our own belated wedding reception/anniversary party but narrowing down a date/place at the very least: Ontario, November 2015, get ready!
Since this blog is like one fetus away from a mommy blog, I figured I’d share my landing story, rather the day I finally moved to Canada. On US to Canada immigration message boards, which were a huge help to me in this whole process in figuring out things government websites made complicated for no reason, there’s always a landing thread where you post the story of the day you finally land. It’s a big deal, even in the easiest of cases (ours) this is a long and expensive and difficult process so when you make it, it’s just huge.
Zach made the trip with me and it was a good trip although I could feel my stress levels peak sometimes. The morning we left, I threw up and the morning I was supposed to officially land, I threw up. I tend to throw up when I’m nervous and this might be the thing I’ve been most anxious about in my life. I’m the kind of person whose anxiety will not let up until something is official and done and over. Despite outward appearances, I’m a wreck before then. Zach knows so thank god he was the one there with me to keep me not only calm but to give me real talk when I needed it.
We made it Buffalo so fast, on our second day of driving and stayed there for the night because you have to export your car and do your landing during business hours. The next morning, we woke up and got ready to go. Zach made me a hotel waffle and made me eat some even though I really thought I was going to puke. We printed a bunch of extra paperwork I was told to bring and then we hit the road for the Lewiston Bridge (note: the only place in Western NY to export your car to Canada.) Siri gave us directions for the US Customs and Border Protection office where you export your car and as we are passing Niagara, we see this sign that says just that, US Customs and Border Protection.
Maybe that’s where we should go, we think.
Nah, Siri wouldn’t lead us wrong.
Pretty soon, Siri tells us we have arrived and we are on the side of a mountain road. Thanks for nothing, Siri.
We turn around and go back to the original place we saw which to be fair was right by the border where you actually cross. It is an actual maze of parking and I am driving figure 8’s to get over to where the office is. We finally park and I am gathering myself and my things when someone bangs on the window. Zach and I shriek and roll down the window.
"Passport and vehicle title," this guy who I swear to god walked out of bear porn 30 seconds earlier says.
I hand it to him with shaky hands.
This is the part where I should also mention that exporting my car had become my main source of distress in the week leading up the move because they have recently changed the laws surrounding this where you have to have a shipping/freighter ID code and like, a bunch of other shit to do it. Until October of this year, it’s an informed consent period so they aren’t making people do that or penalizing them but I wasn’t sure what to expect at the border. In other words, I was very afraid I was going to have to walk over the border or something.
We follow this guy upstairs and sit. He is at his computer typing in stuff about me and my car. His coworker comes and sits next to him while he does this and is showing him photos of her dumb dog on instagram. Read the room, lady. I keep waiting and rocking back and forth and expecting him to ask me for info I don’t have or for something bad to happen but instead he gets up after maybe four minutes, hands me my passport and title, and says that I’m all set.
"That’s it?" I squeak.
"What else did you want?" he said.
"I just thought it would be more complicated or something, I don’t know, I—"
Zach pulled me out of the room before I could fuck anything up.
So we get back in the car only to have to once again navigate the dumbest fucking series of parking lots and exits to get to a place twenty feet away. We get our passports out, I get my certificate of permanent residency out, and we wait at one of those toll booth thingies for maybe 4 minutes. The guy in the booth looked maybe fourteen and he seems very irritated with my overly enthusiastic smile as I tell him I’m landing. Like, as a permanent resident. He approves Zach to come in as a visitor and sends us over to the building marked Canada. Zach and I gather my things and go inside, immediately giving Canada points over its governmental typeface choices even though we aren’t serif people.
We walk in and there is no one there. Now, I knew it would be not as busy as let’s say a weekend at the border but I expected like, Ellis Island lite or just a dash of Fievel Mouskowitz but no, there was literally one other person who didn’t work there in the building and they were just sitting on a bench so who knows what that story is. I walk up to the counter and the hot bearded man sends me over to a hot unbearded man. Also, yes, the majority of Canada’s border agents? Super hot. If you want to move to a different country, I recommend Canada when it comes to border agent hotness.
So anyways, I give this guy my paperwork and he is really nice and helpful. He asks if we are both landing and we said no but in hindsight maybe they would have just let Zach if we kept our big mouths shut. We blew it. So this guy looks over my documents and sees everything is in order and prepared them for me to sign.
"Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" He asks.
"No," I reply. "Well, not yet." Because anxiety makes me a jokester.
Luckily the hot border agent guy laughed along with Zach. I signed and became a permanent resident of Canada. I’m pretty sure I gripped Zach’s hand or something. I was then sent back to the hot bearded border agent who had me fill out forms about my car to import it and looked over my list of belongings (books: value $500 cosmetics: value PRICELESS.) Zach was the best as always and ran to my car to get some number they needed and then I signed more stuff and that was that. They then sent us to the next desk over where the people weren’t so hot but they were nice so there’s that. I didn’t have to pay a thing because I was a settler which of course gave me so many Oregon Trail vibes. I sort of hopped in the air when it was all done because oh my god, it was done! And nothing went wrong! And I could now breathe oxygen into my lungs again!
We exchanged money at the border, marveling at how fake it looked and laughing at the fact there was not only a white guy on it but a snowflake and a hockey player! Zach took a photo of me in front of the welcome to Ontario sign and we hit the road to Toronto (not very far, maybe an hour.) I tried to show the hills-obsessed (not The Hills obsessed) Zach that Canada had lovely hills as well but he sulked at this. At one point, as we were about to cross a bridge, we passed what looked like water but with a weird barrier that was up kind of looked like a field of lavender.
"Is that water?" I asked.
"That’s Lake Ontario," Zach replied.
And just like that, I doomed myself to this being my Canadian Heritage Moment. In 2014, Anaïs Mathers discovered that Lake Ontario was in fact made of water. Damn.
We made it to Toronto, we parked by my new apartment, and since Ian was still at work and we were actually starving, we walked down the street to get sushi. Zach and I were excited to discover that it was all you can eat and we set about making our list of what we wanted, eating with our eyes as we hadn’t had much for breakfast. What we didn’t realize is that this is not America, land of waste and gluttony where all you can eat means if you don’t finish what’s on your plate, no big deal. So we order like 8 thousand things and start eating, slowing down pretty quickly because no one actually needs as much food as we ordered. At this point, the waitress comes over and shows us the fine print on the bottom of the menu which says that you will pay entree price for whatever you don’t finish. You cannot imagine the horror we felt.
We eat as much as we can but a huge problem here is, I ordered stuff that has gluten and dairy and meat in it, three things Zach cannot eat. So I am stuffing it all in my mouth, tears in my eyes, literally coughing some up that just would not fit down my food hole. I start putting things in my napkin so I can put it in my purse. Finally, with one or two pieces of things left on some plates, we gave up. The waitress brings over the check and luckily it’s just for the lunch price. The problem now is walking up the hill back home. Zach and I very slowly begin our ascent, looking like footage of people climbing Everest in a blizzard when really it’s a lovely warm day in the summer. We have never felt more useless and American as we did climbing that hill.
We don’t attempt to unpack at this point, instead going inside and lying next to each other on my marital bed. We watched basically all of the Canadian Heritage Moments on youtube in order to get into the Canadian spirit and waited for Ian to come home and find us, American flag scarves strewn all over. And at that moment, I was so grateful to have crossed the border and been there with Zach, my gusband, who would not judge me for puking into my napkin at a sushi restaurant and who would also think it weird that Superman was invented by a Canadian. And that is how I became someone who gets to live in Canada forever.
my parents got this avocado shaped guacamole serving dish as a wedding gift over thirty years ago; my mom thought it kitschy but my dad loved it. Me too. He got it when they got divorced years later and he kept it for me knowing I loved it. He gave it to me and Ian before my move as a housewarming gift since he knows ian is a huge guacamole lover. We are pretty excited to have it for homemade guacamole today as we host people for the World Cup.
As I mentioned last week, I got a speeding ticket in a certain southern state. 81 in a 70 mph zone on I-95, a crisp clear morning, moving with traffic. I got stopped and I was just so eager to get back to driving that I didn’t even look at the ticket until almost a week after I got to Canada. I didn’t feel worried, the officer was calm and polite about it.
"Just call the number and you can prepay it and you won’t have to show up to court," he said.
Sure, perfect. On Monday, I made my morning “paying tickets morning” and I tried paying my parking ticket online and it said it had already been paid. I called the city of Toronto and they confirmed that my ticket had been cancelled or something so not to worry about it. I was obviously thrilled. I try paying my certain southern state speeding ticket online and it says I have to call it in, no problem. I give them credit card info and the woman very calmly tells me this will be class one misdemeanor on my record. I say ok and hang up because I am shocked. I immediately freak out, like, lose my goddamn mind thinking about jobs I’m applying for and background checks and applying for citizenship in Canada in a few years and oh my god.
My parents and Ian are entirely flabbergasted. They have never heard of such a stringent punishment for speeding, not even a huge amount and within the context of the rest of traffic that day. Google reveals that this is this state’s racket, charging especially out of state drivers with this in order to get them to pay and be less likely to go to court and fight it. I kept thinking of the cop saying, “no worries, you don’t have to come to court.” Ha, the fuck I won’t.
I found a lawyer in a certain southern state who gets to work on withdrawing my guilty plea (since paying for the ticket is admission of guilt) and showing up to court for me on Wednesday. Luckily, I am a lunatic who has copies and more copies of every legal document I could possibly need for my move and so I sent his paralegal my complete Florida driving record in minutes. We aren’t happy about spending money on a lawyer but we feel lucky that we are able to have that option. I found out today that all went well and they reduced the charge to defective equipment, a minor traffic charge that has no points on my record. I am relieved, more than relieved.
And I know this will sound dramatic but you might not know that I’m as stubborn as a mule: I will never drive through a certain southern state again. In fact, I will never go to a certain southern state again as long as I live. If I have to drive in that area, I will go the long way around to make sure I do not have to ever be in that state again. And you have no idea how difficult this will be for me, I love a certain southern state’s Colonial Williamsburg! I’m a sucker for that shit! I won’t eat a a certain southern state’s ham ever again! Actually, I’ll eat even more of a certain southern state’s ham because a certain southern state’s hams can get fucked but I won’t pay a cent for them, I’ll just eat hams other people buy. You have to take a stand for something. In conclusion, please don’t speed in a certain southern state because it is an actual police state.