for dad, the reasons seemed obvious: he lived in araçatuba for one year during his missionary service in the 1960s and became very close with the saito family who lived there. except a single visit with mom in 1979, dad had not returned since.
for me, i wasn't sure why it was so important. maybe because i find the notion of dad prior to aarp-eligibility comparable to the loch ness monster; totally bogus, regardless of any photographic evidence. maybe because i had grown up sensing that araçatuba possesses a critical ingredient for understanding dad and his faith. or maybe because i love people and out-of-the-way places.
i was a startled when, after greeting me, senhora saito remarked that i look just like mom. sorry senhora, but mom is 5'1" and has straight, white hair. and please don't call her bonnie. the name is mom. closer inspection of a 1979 photo from my parents' visit revealed that the skirt mom was wearing currently hangs in my closet, we have strikingly similar 'dos, and she totally out-hipsters me with her thick frames.
what ensued over the next two days was pure magic. marcelo and marisa drove from são paulo to join us. thanks to the saito family's hospitality, we shared meals together and visited nostalgic places. and the stories came pouring out. i just sat back and watched it unfold. mostly because, on a good day, i could understand only 35% of the primarily-portuguese conversations.
but araçatuba wasn't just about the saito family. on saturday afternoon, i went out on a walking expedition. lingering on a stone bench outside igreja de são joão, i watched as people trickled in for evening mass. i stumbled into a half-completed building, unsure whether it was on its way to viability or deconstruction. and i got comfortably lost wandering through residential streets, taking in the architecture, sounds of motorcycles and music, and semi-paved roads. i'm not sure if i will ever go back to araçatuba, but i'm pretty sure i left a piece of my soul behind as we drove on toward paraná.