In my memoir “Marrying Santiago” (2015) I wonder where my two sons would choose to put down roots. I ask: “Would I lose them someday to the place I left behind?” My parents’ only child, I left my California home forty-five years ago to marry and live in Chile. The great distance that separated us was the source of tremendous sorrow for them.
While my oldest son married and settled in Chile, the younger one has been living and working in New York for four years. I miss him terribly. Living in this hyper-connected era does ease the pain somewhat – we chat online, talk by Whatsapp and Skype and send photos taken instants before.
Today a Chilean friend who passed through New York brings me a present from my son. An enchanting little book entitled Owls: Our Most Charming Bird by Matt Sewell. A rich text accompanies the delightful drawings. I am so pleased with this gift that I immediately call my son. We don’t talk long as he is at work, but just hearing his voice brings me pleasure. I recently ordered Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods for him. Since he’s a hiker, I thought he’d like it. He did.
With these small exchanges – books, photos, and online chats – the distance seems less. Last month he sent me a photo to show he’d just voted in the New York primary. I’m happy he takes seriously his American citizenship. I recently voted in the California primary by absentee ballot – signed, sealed and delivered (well, actually faxed). My son and I agree on the presidential candidate.
This not just the expatriate’s or the immigrant’s dilemma. Several of my California high school and university classmates have children living on the east coast (many in Brooklyn, like my son.) But Brooklyn is a lot further from Chile than California. Here I’m at the bottom of the world.
Will he return to Chile someday? That is a question that must wait for an answer, and I must accept whatever choices he makes.