Buckle up everyone, (some of) the (fully vaccinated) grannies are on their way!

As the winter months begin, some of our favorite things start to remind us of the holiday season ahead: Thanksgiving feasts, hot cocoa, and most importantly, heartwarming reunions at the airport. This year, for some immigrant families especially, there’s a whole new meaning to the phrase “joyful season.”

Thanks to a long-overdue decision by the Biden administration, some families that have been separated due to the 18+ month long COVID travel bans will finally get the chance to be reunited again. As of today – November 8th – there are no more sleeps until the end of the travel ban! And while airport reunions are always emotional, this year some of us will be bringing extra tissues to the international terminal.

It must be said that the end of the travel ban does not fix all issues immigrant families face. There are many who are still awaiting their joyful reunions like undocumented immigrants who cannot travel, those in long visa backlogs or the black hole of administrative processing, and those abroad in treacherous conditions such as Afghanistan and Haiti. While we celebrate the end of this travel ban, we will keep advocating for those many other immigrant families and their reunions.

One of my favorite movies to watch around the holiday season is Love, Actually. With nearly a dozen intertwining love stories, the plot tugs at the heart strings in every which way. The opening scene is a particularly memorable one. The Prime Minister, played by Hugh Grant, delivers a monologue while a montage of families hugging at an airport plays:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that… If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

While the pandemic has certainly been difficult for everyone, the COVID travel bans have added a further emotional toll on immigrant families. As an immigrant myself from Ireland (now naturalized U.S. citizen), I can say firsthand how difficult this has been on my family, in particular for my young kids who have spent many a sleepless night awaiting the arrival of their grandparents and cousins from Ireland.

Last week, in celebration of the end of the travel ban, I tweeted about my excitement hearing about the grandads and grannies packing their suitcases! Many of my followers shared this same joy, and tweeted about their own beautiful family stories. Highlights included a “granny countdown” and a two-year-old who will soon meet her grandparents for the very first time in-person, as Facetime chats are replaced with hugs and kisses!

These times have been unfathomably hard, but in this moment, I am choosing to feel joy and hope for the many sweet reunions on the horizon. This holiday season, I choose to remember that love, actually, is all around. We just have to remember to look for it.