My neighbor and I had a conversation today that got me thinking back to the fact that my family came here almost 23 years ago. It will officially be 23 years October 2nd.
I was four when my parents uprooted me from all that was familiar in Romania. I was angry and sad that I was leaving my Bunica (grandmother) for a place unknown. I don't think I knew what was going on except that my parents were making me get on this train with them and my little brother, Alex. He was two. We took the train from Romania to Italy and spent 6 weeks in Rome. Then we spent the rest of our time in Spain before we made it the good ol' U.S. of A. We actually settled in Missouri with my uncle and his family before we might made our final stop in Southern Illinois.
My neighbor and I were talking about families immigrating to the States. My dad thought we would have a better life here. Romania then was still under communist regime. Life was pretty difficult. Mom told me a story of how she was nine months pregnant with me, standing in line for 8 hours for one piece of chicken when it was bitter cold outside. I was born in mid December so it must have been pretty nippy. We left right before the fall in December of 1989.
I suppose my dad was right. Almost 23 years later, I'm working on my doctorate. I'm not sure I'd be in the same position in Romania that I am now. I would still be driven and have done something with my life, but it being so...not necessarily easily, but maybe the opportunities wouldn't have presented themselves for me like they have. I am so very grateful that my parents made the journey. My mom has talked about how hard it was to leave her entire life behind for something so unknown.
She said that she knew she made the right decision when Alex and I were in Bulgaria looking through a shop window at a Pepsi bottle. We didn't say anything, but mom took us inside, got us Pepsi and some candy. And at that point, she knew she couldn't have done that in Romania . She realized the possibilites were endless and she was going to trust that we'd make it.
And we have. She may not have known that her daughter was going to be working on her doctorate or that her boys would be high school football studs. Well, she probably knew I was going to get my doctorate. She did drill school pretty hard. But either way, it worked out for the best. But Alex wouldn't have been the captain of the football team.
Being so blessed to have what we have should make us grateful. One of the many reasons I volunteer is to give back. When we first came here, there were organizations to help us get started. So by offering my time and services, I feel like it's my way of saying thank you.