For years, the tradition of celebrating a much-anticipated Cuban Christmas Eve in Miami with the family has been an important part of my American existence.
My daughters have enjoyed the menu changes — from mashed potatoes and gravy to yuca with mojo, from broccoli casserole to black beans over rice, from turkey to roasted pork — cooked all day in a "caja china," a small wooden box set over a pit, and from the swift change from English to the cacophony of trilled r's, Spanglish and salsa music.
The dancing on Christmas Eve would always start with my father and mother dancing to El Caballo Viejo, an old Cuban song about an old horse that was put out to pasture, but who still managed with his spirit, to attract all the young fillies to his side.
All of a sudden, midway through the song, everyone would join them: cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.
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After my mother's passing, the honor of dancing the opening song was bestowed upon me. The location changed from dad's to one of my cousins' house, but the tradition continued and will continue even this Christmas.
I, however, will not be dancing with my dad. This Christmas will be a different one for me.
Life and time are a continuum. It is the circumstances in that time line that cause changes, wanted and unwanted, to lead us to new paths.
We count on the consistency of our past to plan for the future. Sometimes it can be smooth sailing; other times we navigate through complex mazes.
Luckily for me, there has always been an anchor, my caballo viejo, on whose indomitable spirit I have always relied; the one who never faltered in his support for me, even when I could see disappointment in his eyes.
I last saw my dad three weekends ago. He did not recognize me. My sorrow is certain, but this moment for me was an epiphany, a realization that change is forever ongoing in life, that we cannot stand still and not move forward.
This year will be my first Kentucky Christmas in a long time. I will celebrate my dad, for who he was, and what he gave me.
And on Christmas Eve, there will be dancing. I will dance with two angels, my twin grandchildren. I will twirl them around, close my eyes and embrace the spirit of Christmases past.