I was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
Moved to Trabajo,
Moved to an apartment in Directorio,
Moved to my granparents’ house in Directorio,
Moved to Hechandia,
Moved to San Fernando,
…and another place in San Fernando.
Then, we moved to Paraguay.
I lived in:
my uncle’s house
Then, back to Argentina to my grandparents’ house in Directorio.
The longest I lived in the same house was two years. The shortest, two weeks. Moving was a lifestyle, so I never thought of questioning it.
Now that for the first time in my life, I am in the same physical place for three years, I wonder at the abnormality of my childhood. In fact, I am not sure why we moved so often. I am going to ask my mother.
Mar del Plata, Trabajo, and Directorio: I have no recollection of these places. I only know because I was told that’s where we lived.
I was told.
Until I became a college student, what I was told by grown-ups is what I blindly believed. If they told me that smoking was bad, I believed them. If they said that school was good, I believed them. So when we moved, I always figured there must be a great reason of which I don’t know.
Grandparents’ house in Directorio [mom’s side]: We had a nanny that lived with us. Her name was Gladys. It was in this house that it happened. The time came when she had to leave and we had to part ways. I was crying so much when I had to say goodbye to my nanny that my parents tricked me into thinking I was going with my nanny. At the very last minute, they took me off the car seat and off my nanny went to finish her high school education. I kept crying.
Hechandia: What I was told about this house is that mom and dad were having a hard time because mom didn’t want to be involved in my dad’s button factory. Dad felt like mom was not being very supportive.
All that I remember from this house is our maid taking her rubber gloves, flipping them upside down and pretending to be a monster as my brother and I squealed in delight.
My first recollections of childhood involved a maid and a nanny. I guess it is because my parents were busy making money for our daily bread. In fact, they seemed so busy with this that their disagreements as man and wife were buried under the excuse of ‘our kids need us to make our daily bread’.
San Fernando: Mom was very busy with her clothing store, so most days my brother and I played in our rented flat right in front of the clothing store. My dad was… absent. I remember that for unknown reasons, he was not living with us.
(As busy as she was, my mom did the impossible in order to spend quality time with us. She even made a very small space in her store where my brother and I could chill reading comic books and just know that mom was right next to us.)
This is where I started to notice that something was off between mom and dad. I couldn’t put a finger on it, but I felt something wasn’t right.
I was in 1st grade when my parents decided to move to Paraguay. I was told we were moving in order to do missions. My mom always wanted to be a missionary. My dad didn’t. I wasn’t very excited about moving. But I wasn’t totally against it either. The grown-ups said it, I followed.
My uncle’s house: I was scared of my uncle. It was the first time I was meeting him and he asked things like, “Have you read your Bible?” with a voice so stern that I felt like I must have done something wrong. I avoided his presence and his gaze.
Although his house was nice, I felt very uncomfortable and didn’t understand why we were staying there. Still, there is a single happy memory from this place. My aunt had a parrot that could sing soprano (because my aunt was a soprano). I found that fascinating. I needed something pleasant to hold on to in the midst of all the changes that were happening to me. I found out recently that we had stayed there for only two weeks. In my mind, it was a much longer time.
San Vicente: The house was run-down but spacious. We had a lot of space to run around, play with the mud, torture our pets (duck, parrot, turtle, dog, toucan), and eat fruits off of our guayaba and mango trees and drink lemonade from our lemon tree. It was the perfect house for a perfect childhood.
But, as if to mar this perfect picture, I remember one night, I was abruptly woken up and taken into our car. I was told we were going out to look for my dad. I didn’t understand why my dad disappeared, why we had to look for him at night. I was sleepy. I was crying. I didn’t understand. I couldn’t ask nor could I verbalize what I was feeling.
I just remember the disappearance of dad in that short glimpse of a memory. I don’t remember finding him.
Luque: El Niño (a hurricane that hits South America every now and then) was happening at the time. In order to soothe us, my mom would turn on the Vienna Boys’ Choir whenever a storm came. Now, I relate those angelic voices to strong winds, incessant rain, and thunderstorms.
Dad disappeared again, and this time he came back on his own. I was happy to know he was back and wanted to go hug him. But mom told my brother and me to lock the kitchen door and stay there until she called us out. So oppa and I obediently did this. We had our ears glued to the door; trying to catch the conversation going on in the living room. We couldn’t hear much because our fridge made loud noises. Oppa told me to unplug it. As I unplugged it, I got shocked by the electric current. So, for the next thirty minutes, I was shaking while oppa had his ear glued to the door. After my parents finished talking, they announced that dad was going to go to Korea for a year.
I was shocked.
Villa Morra: One of the tiniest places we lived in. The good thing about this house was that the shopping mall was very close by. I didn’t know this, but the reason my mom took us to the shopping mall every Saturday and Sunday was because our landlords, who lived right below us, were very sensitive to footstep noises.
Dad was not with us here. He was still in South Korea at the time, trying to straighten out his thoughts, to come back as a new man. That’s what mom told us. I was also told to tell others that dad was out on a long-term business trip.
Barrio Jara: This was perhaps one of the ‘cheapest’ houses we lived in because it was one big house that was rented to 3~4 tenants. The people living right behind us were our close friends and it was the first time I got to see a woman pregnant with twins. It was also the first time I held twins in my hands.
We were still waiting for dad to come back as a new man.
Ana Diaz: This was a flat. And dad came back. It was great. Every morning, he would prepare saltine crackers with butter and dulce de leche for us. They were SO yummy.
One day, my dad brought in a puppy that was half Cocker Spaniel and half Dashchund. Her name was Lucy. She liked me over her food. One day, I came back from school and she wasn’t there. I asked dad what happened and he told me she ran away. I found out years later that a bus had run over her as she was crossing the street with my dad.
Vy’a Raity: Our mini-supermarket was in the front and our house was in the back. This is where I spent my puberty years. It’s where oppa teased me about boys, where we still did things like samurai-battles yet started chatting online and listening to Avril Lavigne.
One night, I couldn’t sleep and ended up catching my dad trying to sneak out at 4 a.m.. It was the first time I caught dad in the act of his famous disappearances. I asked him where he was going. He said he was going to the market to get vegetables for our supermarket. I told him I would go with him. He sighed and went back to his room. I couldn’t sleep that night.
Felix Bogado: Prettiest house by far. This is where oppa and I drifted apart drastically. It is here that I caught oppa smoking and drinking in his room. As he saw my dumbfounded expression, he told me to take a seat and to hear him out. It is here that I had to open the door for my drunk oppa at 3 a.m. because he couldn’t find his own keys.
Not only did I grow apart from oppa here, but I caught dad trying to sneak out again. It was the first time dad threatened me. He said that if I told mom, this marriage would fall apart. So, he told me, just keep this knowledge to yourself. I cried so much. For days I kept it to myself, but then I couldn’t hold it any longer. I told mom. As soon as I told her everything, she told me that what I said wouldn’t end their marriage. That they would never get divorced.
I had just graduated from high school. I was planning on going to Universidad de Buenos Aires for college, and was staying at my aunt’s house until my parents came. Then, one sunny day, I got an email from mom saying “Dad and I are getting a divorce.”
Through different discoveries in different houses, I came to realize that grown-ups don’t have it all figured out. Gaining this knowledge came with the loss of innocence. Through its loss, I learned to see my parents as they truly were; faults included.
Not long ago, I asked my mom. “Why? Why couldn’t we stay in the same place?” After a short nervous laugh, she said it was for practical reasons. But after some thought, she added that both she and dad didn’t like living in the same place for too long. She said, “I guess we had a nomad’s heart.”
This is perhaps the only thing my parents wholeheartedly agreed upon.
I like that.
It has been almost three years since I graduated from university.
And it has been almost three years since my parents got back together.
They are still figuring things out, and in our Voicetalk conversations (they are in Argentina, I am in Korea), there’s nothing I love more than hearing them praising each other. Right now, most of their reports of each other are still predominantly complaints, but here and there, I get to listen to a small praise of mom, a small praise of dad.
So how did they get back together? Because of their nomad’s heart?
Well, they still have a nomad’s heart in common, but most importantly, they have Christ in common. And that has made all the difference.