My mother is not from this country, where concrete stretches one man’s dream to another’s. She was born across the Pacific, in a time where the waters of Change were just about to stir before boiling over. Her home was an island nation where even the natives rarely went to enjoy the black sand beaches and clear waters off the undeveloped coasts. Life is simpler where the markets smell of a fresh day’s catch and produce is brought every day from sun-kissed fields. She still tells me with a child’s glee of the delicious, exotic fruit they’ll never have here in America.
Martial Law had been declared in Manila, where humid monsoon rains would flood the streets and local schools every year without fail. My grandfather and his oldest son were working in America as maintenance men, even though in his country my grandfather was a well respected professor of engineering; a sacrifice made for the many children at home. My grandparents had planned to slowly move the family to America, where each one of their sixteen children would have an equal chance at a better life. But Martial Law pushed up the time tables and suddenly everyone was saying rushed goodbyes and packing. My mother was only allowed to bring one treasure and one suitcase full of clothes; being practical even at the younger side of sixteen, she brought her “piggy” bank in the shape of the average Philippine hut, with tiny doors that open and shut.
I suppose it must have been strange, to step off her first plane ride and immediately being ushered through a methodical, clinical immunization. Looking closely at her skin, she can tell you where the injections go. They had fled all that they had worked for to arrive en masse in New York. The first landmark my mother ever visited was the Statue of Liberty; the lovely lady still looks different to her than it does to me, a natural citizen.
The family took a long road trip across the Americas to settle in California as if on a grand adventure. My mother’s youngest brother learned to read by reading the large scripted highway signs. They don’t have mountains that someone had made their sculpted masterpiece like these, or wide, angry rivers that smelled of a stubborn age back on the Islands. I think the American treasures we take for granted is why my mother now calls America home. She sees the forgotten Dream that still belongs to those whose homes are in far away places.