Through Immigrant eyes.
What brings a person across miles of ocean, away from everything they know. Everything they own, rough rolled in a duffel bag patched with duct tape and in a dented old suitcase? What spirit possesses a man/woman to pull themselves up at the roots, leaving bits of themselves behind, their friends, their family, their history. It’s like a dentist pulling a tooth, what remains is a space. Hollow, often bloody. Never the same.
That’s the immigrant ethos, our headspace. Longing for a broken past that we can never remember without sadness. Praying for a better tomorrow if we can just get past today. It moves us, draws us forward with what remains of our pride and self respect wrapped carefully around, worn in hope and defense. Worn because we remember only past hurts, and in this new place, we fear even that may be lost and we disappear into America; this place, so bright, loud, businesslike and brash is now home. This America we have imagined, the home of the brave and the land of the free is where we find rest.
How to find footing in a strange land with so many faces and so many places.
‘One day at a time.’ My mother told me. She still says it even though we have been here many years.
One day at a time.
We learn the language. Then we must learn the people. Then we learn the culture and try to be a part of it. What’s not to like? America gives away so much. It’s easy to find small pleasures. Starbucks coffee. No wait, IHop’s straight leaded. That’s coffee. Ariana Grande. The child has a set of pipes on her. Steve Vai playing ‘For the love of God’ blows my mind. Stevie Ray Vaughn. A voodoo child that one. In countless ways, America enthralls, fascinates, hypnotizes.
That statue, that statue, on Staten Island.
I still get chills thinking of what she has seen. What she knows. What she must feel because I feel a little of it. It’s a deep sense of understanding and welcome. A decades deep knowing of the trials of the human spirit and the relief and release of leaving them somehow behind.
It’s spiritual for immigrants. That statue represents more than the iron and steel that run deep inside her. For us, that statue is America. And for immigrants, America has always been great. Still is, no matter what the orange one says. We see it everyday. We live it.
One day at a time.