Saturday, March 7, 1981 an 9 1/2 year old little girl walked off an Eastern airline plane at Dulles Airport – the world looked so different. Behind her was the only home she had ever known, her grandparents, friends, cousins – everything that was her life, a language she understood and could speak – Ahead of her was a new life (with the roots still back home in Puerto Rico) – a country she didn’t know, a language she didn’t understand, and a future that was a little scary….. that little 9 year old was me. Thirty seven years ago we moved to Reston, Virginia from Puerto Rico. I remember leading up to the move going to the cargo area at the airport in Puerto Rico, packing our things to be flown to our new home. I remember the curiosity, being overwhelmed and not knowing what to expect. The only visual I had of the United States was tv and toys. To me, I felt like I would be the only brunette in the U.S. as all Barbies I had were blonde and blue eyed. It was a Saturday, and that Monday, – yes 2 days later without knowing a single word of English, my mom took me to Lake Anne Elementary school (same school Steven and Zoe attended many years later). The school was aware of the new kids from Puerto Rico and the teachers pulled together to help me learn a new language and a new life. Not sure if those people will ever realize the impact they had on me, but I remember them with such good memories.
Looking back over these past thirty seven years, I can’t imagine the fear and guts my mom had in packing two kids and moving to the unknown all for a better future for us. She accomplished it – we came first – it was for our future, better education, better chances and as a single mom her focus was our lives. Keep in mind, yes, we moved here, we already had family here so we were welcomed immediately and happy to be with our loved ones. Even though we were in the U.S. once we entered our home we were taken back to our safety, only speaking Spanish, celebrating our culture, still eating the same foods and our house was still a Puerto Rican home. I look back on that with such happiness. We had an amazing childhood which became going back to Puerto Rico for visits almost every year, grandparents coming to visit, constant calls etc.
I’m beyond grateful to my family for the risk they took coming here – their risk gave me the chance to get a better education, graduate from college, meet my husband, get married, have two children and build my life here. If you know me, you know my heart and roots are always in PR which I thank my family for that. I thank them for allowing me to grow here while keeping me grounded to where I come from. It’s crazy when I think that it’s been 37 years… and if I close my eyes I can still see myself walking off the plane to my Titi Rosamelia and Titi Pepi waiting for us with open arms and hugs.
I miss Puerto Rico still, but it’s in my heart every moment. I’m blessed that I was given the opportunity to have the life I have.