After the attacks on Brussels, after Paris and Madrid and 9/11, travelers everywhere are having second thoughts, and many worry even about waiting on line at immigration and customs in New York because they know they’re a soft target. But I can’t remember a time when coming home didn’t fill me with dread. Even before seeing the signs for Citizens and Non-Citizens, my mouth feels like I swallowed dirt. No matter how warm or cold the area, the sweat starts to form little round beads on my forehead, and my stomach feels like birds are inside fighting. The trembling is the worst. I’m scared the officers will see that my hands are shaking and think I’m suspicious.
I try to calm myself. I’m not carrying anything illegal. I’ve never been arrested. I’m a proud American, New York City-born and bred. My parents were American-born, too.
I know practically nothing about my grandparents, not even the towns in Russia where they came from. My father’s parents, and my mother’s father, died before I was born. But I knew Grandma Fanny, and I had been told how hard it was for her to come to America. Could that be why coming home feels so fraught?