March 6, 2019
“It’s 5:15am. It will be raining and a high of 31 degrees in Philadelphia today.” I quickly snatch my phone off the bedside table and press dismiss on the alarm. As my eyes start to focus, I notice I have two new messages in my WhatsApp group labeled “Pachino Family.” I click it and see a smiling faced baby girl wrapped in a warm, cuddly looking blanket. My heart melts and sighs at the same time. Chaviva, is the latest addition to the Pachino clan. I haven’t met her yet. She, and the rest of my nine incredible nieces and nephews live 6000 miles away in the beautiful country of Israel. As I turn on the hot water to start my shower, I stare back at Chaviva and I ask myself Why am I living in America?
This is a question I ask myself every day, and it’s not because I don’t love my life. I seriously LOVE my life. I am totally obsessed with the great city of Philadelphia and all it offers. I have established an amazing community that feels more like family. Don’t even get me started on how awesome my clients are. And above all, Robert is here. Yet, with each and every passing day, my heart breaks a little more.
They are there and I am here. It is as simple as that. They are there and I am here. They are having birthdays that I can’t blow up balloons for. They are starring in school plays that I cannot clap loudly at and they are having dance parties that I cannot dress up for. They are celebrating holidays, passing milestones with flying colors, learning, playing and living their life there, in Israel. And I am here, in Philadelphia. How can I live like this?
There is nothing like the love you feel as an Aunt. When Shira, the oldest of the nine, was born, I was head over heels in love. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Hard and fast. There she was, all tiny and cute. As the seventeen year old high school senior, I was terrified of holding her. I had the immense fear that I was going to drop her, break her or even just make her cry. With one look, Shira stole my heart and I have never been the same.
With each child born, my heart grows bigger and bigger. I don’t think words can really explain the joy and happiness these nine humans and their cute little faces bring me. Watching them find the magic in the world is irreplaceable. Seeing the bits and pieces of my sisters that appear in these children is remarkable . Hearing them call me “Aunt Yael” is music to my ears and I miss them more and more every day.
I am lucky that we are living in such a globalized world. With just the click of a button, I can see them, hear them and be a digital presence in their life. I get daily updates, weekly pictures and I know my sisters and brother-in-laws are doing everything they can to make me feel like 6000 miles is really not that far. I know that I belong in Philadelphia and they belong in Israel. I know that they will never forget me and I will always be there in spirit. I know that I deserve to go after my dreams and they deserve to live out theirs. I know that our bond is stronger than long distance and time zones. I know that no one will replace me and I will be the proudest aunt no matter how far away I am.
So, as I take one more look at Chaviva’s photo before I head out into the rain and off to my first meeting of the day, I sigh. I am happy here. I can’t move to Israel. That just has to be good enough. For now, I get to count down the days til Robert and I go to see them in May. For now, I get to show off all the smiling photos I get via WhatsApp and for now, I get to laugh at every email that my older nieces send me. I live in Philadelphia, they live in Israel and waking up to pictures of a happy, cuddly Chaviva isn’t too shabby.