The Shadows of yesterday
(One Family's Crisis)
By Carmen Pena
A New Life in the USA, Lynn MA
We were so excited, the three of us…David, Gloria and myself as we prepared for our first airplane trip to the USA. Even though mom was married to Martin, he couldn’t come with us because of his job, and because he had to get things situated with his own children; putting them up with other family members, especially the younger ones before he could join us. There was sadness in his eyes as we packed the few belongings that we owned. He missed mom and wanted so much to meet his new baby daughter, Meleedy Garcia. Yes, Martin was a good man who was genuinely in love with our mother. He was the best thing to happen to her and to us. But, it’s a shame that mom didn’t realize that, or appreciate his kindness and generosity.
We were accompanied on our six hour trip with our Aunt Valencia, mom’s sister who happened to be in Santiago for a visit. She too was living in the United States, along with some other relatives who had escaped the harsh reality and poor conditions of Santiago. United States for my people, for our family held a lot of promise. I was so your and so na´ve, I thought in the land of prosperity, the streets would be paved with gold. It would have been like I died and was living in Heaven. I had high expectations even at the young age of twelve; because I had dreams and I had hope, and above all, I had faith.
I was extremely excited as the plane lifted off the ground and took to the skies. I was so full of questions. I tried to communicate with the attendants, but I couldn’t speak a drop of English, and they couldn’t understand my Spanish jabber. The only thing that was understood was the warm friendly smiles that were being given as they walked up and down the aisles.
Yes, after being separated for three long years, we were about to be reunited with our mother again, and this time it seemed that it was going to be a permanent arrangement; after all, we were going to be living in the United States. Nothing but good was going to happen because children are well taken care of on that side of the world, right??????
When we arrived at the airport, I was expecting to see my mom and baby sister. I had already rehearsed in my mind how I was going to react with the reunion. I knew exactly what role I was going to play, just like I was an actress on stage. I was going to run and give mom a big hug, and plant kisses all over Meleedy’s face. But, instead of finding mom waiting for us, it was another relative who picked us up and then whisked us off to our maternal grandmother’s house, where our mother lived in Lynn Massachusetts. Excitement was still in the air as we took in the sites on our ride home. Everything was so nice and clean, and since it was summer, everything was green. Men were mowing lawns, and there were flower gardens that were so colorful, growing in front of big, lavish looking single family houses. I was amazed to see houses that looked like they were straight out of a magazine. Lynn looked like it was very well kept. Massachusetts was nothing like the Dominican Republic even though the same blue sky and the bright sunshine covered Lynn as it did Santiago, it was still very different. The streets were different; the people were different, the homes were different. Lynn looked like a safe haven; a place for movie stars is what I thought in my young mind. It was the ideal place. I felt like a super star as we pulled up in front of a big reddish brown apartment building; I didn’t realize at first glance that we would be staying in the ghetto part of town. After coming from Santiago, this area was fine living. Grandmother’s apartment was like that of a condo for rich people. This wasn’t like anything we had ever lived in before. The rooms were big; the kitchen was huge with lots of cupboards. I was taking it all in with awe. We even had plenty of food to fill our stomachs. That day, I can remember it so clearly, like it was yesterday, I had for dinner that night, two hard boiled eggs and a heaping pile of mashed potatoes all to myself. The eggs did not have to be cut up and divided between the three of us kids. If I wanted, I could have had seconds. That didn’t happen very much in Santiago, matter of fact, it didn’t happen at all. We were living in the poor part of Lynn, but I felt rich because I had so much. For once in our lives we had plenty. This was a great new beginning for three deprived kids from Santiago, the Dominican Republic.
We felt so complete, mom was actually elated to see and have her children with her, instead of a million miles away. We were instantly drawn to Meleedy, we fell in love with her smile and those dark round eyes. She looked so much like her father, Martin. I couldn’t help but to spoil her. If she wanted something that I had, all she would have to do is look at me with her pleading eyes, and I would give it to her with a smile. She felt like my baby instead of my sister as I toted her around on my hip, spoiling her. That’s how close I was to her when we first met. We had an instant bond. That’s one thing I can say about my siblings, we may have different daddies, different last names, but we were all one in the same. We were united by flesh and blood and our mother.
Yes, we were a family and I particularly loved it because it was a long time coming; after all, it had been twelve years. I was almost a teenager before things seemed normal and right again. After we were settled into our grandmother Anita’s house, getting into a regular routine of chores and learning the neighborhood, a few weeks later, our mother fell ill and was hospitalized for three long weeks. That was a dreadful time, full of worry and fret because she almost died from her illness. How would we manage, and would grandmother Anita send us all back to Santiago if anything happened? I worried about that constantly when mom became ill.
When mother was well again, and then released from the hospital, a week or so after she came back home, she found us another apartment, our very own home. We moved into the three story apartment building and moved into the first floor apartment. My favorite aunt Rosita lived on the second floor, while an elderly lady lived on the third. It started out perfect; we had a normal, happy life for about a year before things started to fall apart. I should have known that this was too good to be true because nothing good seems to last forever.
During this time, Martin joined us in Lynn. We were happy to see him, and he was happy to be with us and see his family. Everyone was glad he was there, everyone except for mother. For some reason she just fell out of love with him, perhaps she never did lover her second husband. He was only in her life for convenience, for support. Now she didn’t need him anymore because she supported us on her own with a monthly government check. I know this hurt him, after all, he came all the way to the USA to reclaim his wife, and she turned her back on him. He looked so old, beat and worn the day he left our house for good. I can still recall the painful look on his face when mother told him that he was just too old for her. What a blow to a man’s ego, his pride; after he had done so much for her, taking care of her children for three long years, leaving his home, his job, his children to end up with nothing.
Martin may have been much older than my mother, but he was strong. He may have been hurt, but he did move on with his life in the United States. After he left, mom had nothing to do with him, and she didn’t want us to have anything to do with him as well, not even his own daughter, Meleedy. The only time Meleedy would be allowed to get in contact with him was when mom was broke and needed money for bingo night.
Despite his setback, Martin did find a job, and moved into his own apartment, when he saved up enough money, he sent for the rest of his children left behind in Santiago. He even remarried, and that wife stuck by his side until the day he died in 2005. Yes, Martin was special because he was good to us. If the other men in mother’s life were just half the man that Martin was, they would be better off today, mom would be better off. How come people can’t see when they have a good thing going on? I ask you, why is love so blind at times, and why must the grass always look greener on the other side? Why is it that Mother is always attracted to the crab grass????????