it’s that time of the year

Gloria, Sonsonate

The last time I spent Christmas in El Salvador was in 1990. This is the time of the year when my heart begins to crave for smells, tastes, and feelings that make me happy yet somewhat sad. 

There is no cure or formula to repair the emotional rupture one experiences during Christmas dinner when the emptiness of not having your grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins fills a corner of your brain. 

My family and I have lived outside of El Salvador for a long time and somehow it feels like there’s a part of us that flies there around this time. There are many reasons why we can’t all go back. It is mainly because we can’t afford it. So we conform ourselves with playing a never-ending list of the traditional cumbias we would be listening if we were there, preparing the dishes as we were taught by our aunties and older siblings, and waiting for the New Year wearing something new. 

I have always felt like this is like a time machine. We always return to the last couple of years we spent there. We are here in the present recreating a bit of that magic from the past. We re-lived the chaos of running around to prep all the dishes, dressing up for la Noche Buena, holding on very hard to that minute when the clock turns midnight, and telling God how grateful we are that we have food on the table. 

The firecrackers here will never compare to the smell of los cohetes de allá. It’s a light or a sparkle that I keep alive. I can’t say why. I just know it’s there.