August 27, 2009

Coming to America

My mom emailed my brother and I today to congratulate us because today (August 26) marks 20 years since we emigrated to from Trinidad to Canada. She thanked us for making this journey with her and for being good kids and bringing her much joy. I uncontrollably burst into tears (as I am now) because although I’ve never actually celebrated the day, or even remembered it, it is not for her to thank us but rather all the gratitude goes to her.

Life in Trinidad was good. Of course, to many kids life is good no matter what. But, really life was good – my mom, although a single mom, owned her own home and car, had a good job and was making good money, had a large and tight network of friends and knew lots of the who’s who in local business. We had our extended family right around the corner and if you’ve ever been to any West Indian island you will know that the weather coupled with a slower, more relaxed lifestyle makes for great living.

Her dream for us meant so many immeasurable sacrifices for her. She gave up everything that she knew and everything that she was to provide us with an opportunity. She started her life over – which is not an easy feat for a late thirties single mom. She had to find a new career in the harsh winter weather in a new city where there were few acquaintances and even fewer friends, and where racism is so covert and systemic that it’s difficult to understand why there are so few opportunities for an immigrant woman of color. Thankfully, my aunt (her younger sister) had trekked off to Canada a few years earlier and had somewhat learned the lay of the land. Yet still my mom had to learn her way too.

As a teenage girl entering a Canadian high school in 11th grade with no friends and having never been to a co-ed school, I felt the world was closing in on me; I was sad, depressed and angry because I did not want to leave my life at home. But during those times, I never really thought of what it was like for my mom. I think I got a glimpse one evening as she walked in the door at about 7:30 at night crying because it was so cold that her nose hairs had iced as she waited for a bus and then had to walk through the snow to get home after having a rough day at work. I got a glimpse of her hardship that day, but was too wrapped up in myself to really take stock of what it might have been like for her.

Few friends, few family members, little support, little money, frigidly cold weather, new culture, new racism, new big city, new way of life, new career, little independence, little confidence and two kids! And all for what … a question that I can only imagine she asked herself over and over again in the still of the night, when no one was there to ask her questions or to see her cry, but hopefully at a time when God could hear her prayers.

My mom decided to leave home because she wanted us to have more opportunities for a better life. She wanted us to get a better education than we may have received in Trinidad. I wonder whether there were other reasons because it seems like this may not be a strong enough reason to uproot yourself and your kids. But, I guess she so strongly believed that we would have a better life that she put us before herself, as she always seems to do.

Fast forward 20 years and she’s got 2 beautiful granddaughters that I’m not quite sure she would have had otherwise. Our lives have taken a windy path and both my brother and I are still trying to figure out our life plans and our dreams but I am pretty confident that the places in which we are in our lives right now would have been completely different had my mom not left Trinidad. And although I love my home and still consider it home, I know that I would not be the person that I am today had my mom not decided to come to America in 1989.

Mom, thank you for having faith in God, for seeing the long road, for not giving up, for dreaming and for sacrificing for us. Congratulations!

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Jennifer said...

This is a beautiful post! I never once seriously stopped to think of what guts it took my mom to uproot and leave her country for a better future. Thank you for putting some perspective on it!

Silvia said...

This was a very touching post. In my case I was the one who immigrated (under different and better circumstances) but as a mom I can tell I would do ANYTHING to give a better life to my kids.

Congratulations to your family in such a special date!

Justice Jonesie said...

Ditto, great post!! Makes me think of all that my parents did when they immigrated 25 or so years ago. I was too little to remember the move but I heard many stories of how tough life was for them.

La'Tonya Richardson said...

Many of us who are born in America take living here for granite. People like your mother make huge sacrafices for a better future for themselves and their children, where many Americans won't take the simplest of opportunities like eduction seriously.

Great post!

this One's for the girls said...

I hope your mom is as proud of herself as you are of her. What a great tribute you've written. Self-sacrifice seems to be a dying art sometimes -- but your mom is one of the courageous people living lives of sacrifice for others. I hope my kids will talk about me like you can talk about your mom.
-- Nancy

Bonggamom said...

What a beautiful and touching story! How wonderful to have such a strong, courageous example for your daughters.

Not so Anonymous said...

Aw, Ny you just made me tear up. This was beautiful. The love from mother's to their children will never stop amazing's truely beautiful.


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