Journey to America
By: Bobby F.
“Privyet Zenovia, kak dela?” I asked the short brooding man in front of me
“Mag, you know my Russian isn’t good enough for that,” Zenovia looked at me exasperated
“You should at least know the greetings by now! What does your mother have to say about you not knowing her native tongue?” I scolded him.
“She doesn’t give me problems like you do Mag, now help me carry the corn inside the shop.”
“If you ask me in Russian I will”
Zenovia gave an annoyed look and whined, “Can’t you just quit the crap and help me with the corn?”
I snickered and replied, “I’m stronger than you anyway so I guess you do need my help”
“Why don’t we see who can lift more?”
“Because I will win, and I don’t want to hurt your feelings,” I sneered.
“Your self confidence is what I love about you Mag,” Zenovia confessed.
I giggled, “It’s not so much self confidence, it’s just me giving you a hard time because you’re handsome”
Zenovia denied, “Maybe you think that, but no other girl feels the same”
“I guess it’s a good thing that my opinion is the only one that matters,” we both laughed.
“Well, I think it’s time that I took care of this corn”
“And you want my help, don’t you?.” I inquired.
“A beautiful woman like you should never have to work a day in her life if she so chooses,”
The year is 1912 in Transylvania, Romania. The scene of my home on top of the steep and rolling hill is one that always bewilders me. The way the homemade wind chimes fit the serenity of the Carpathian Mountains is my favorite sound. Though my excitement for America is strong, I can’t seem to get over leaving Romania. There won’t be anymore riding the old, 18th century carriage to get groceries, and certainly no more living simply. I’ve heard stories of people immigrating to America to escape persecution of some sort. I thought to myself “Why don’t they just come to Romania?” As my father explained to me, the country was very poor. I was surprised, scarce food and poor economy was the only lifestyle I’ve ever seen so I didn’t have any comparison. I was old enough to know that the benefits of moving to America would be far greater than the difficulties. Still staring at my home on the hill, I contemplated whether I’d ever feel the serenity in America that I feel now As I got up from the bench at the bottom of the hill, I could hear my mother yelling “Magdelina, Magdelina!” for dinner. I looked back behind and felt like I was in a book. That one last look at everything before it’s gone, the feelings of sadness and curiosity storming me were overwhelming. I broke into tears as I saw my neighbor Svetlana planting flowers with her mother.
I walked into the warm and stuffy house for dinner. I can tell mother worked hard on the meal by all the smoke from the stove. I don’t think there’s a better smell than fresh bread and cooked beef. Though I was upset by the thought of moving, I sprinted to the dining table. My rumbling stomach deafened every other thought I had. When I walked into the dining room, I was amazed by what was in front of me. A magnificent Persian table cloth, drowned in magnificently vivid color, was spread across the wooden table. In the middle of the table was a cornucopia filled with fresh apples and all sorts of fruit. Two long, beautiful smelling candles stood at opposite sides of the table in elegant candle holders. What really caught my attention was the bountiful amount of food resting on the table. My mind went 100 mph trying to remember if today was a special holiday or birthday. I couldn’t think of anything at all. Was it possible that it was my parent’s anniversary? It seemed too close to the last anniversary celebration. The suspense was drilling at me, and I wanted answers right now.
As we sat down to eat I immediately asked, “what’s the occasion momma” [You English-speakers use “mamma.”]
“We’ll discuss it after we give thanks for this plentiful meal” she replied with a nervous smile
My mind, racing with anxiety for what’s to come, will not slow down. Even as I try to calm myself down, these anxious thoughts keep hitting me in tsunami-like waves. “What if someone died? Who could it possibly have been?” and “Did papa lose his job?” are some of the horrid assumptions that swarmed me. If someone died, why would my parents go through this trouble to create an enjoyable dinner? Wouldn’t that completely destroy the hard work put into the dinner? If papa lost his job, why would they make such a breathtaking meal to deliver bad news? I really have no idea. I’m at the point where I wish I could unplug my brain so these thoughts would stop. If there were one thing about myself that I could change, it would be the fact that I overthink absolutely everything. I’m overthinking the fact that I overthink. It’s ridiculous, and it’s really kicking my butt right now.
After we prayed, my mother and father grabbed each other’s hands. As soon as this happened I immediately thought the worst. In my head, someone had died. It’s incredible how many horrible things my head could throw at me in just the few seconds it took my parents to start talking.
“We have good news, and more good news, but you will take it as bad news” My father admitted.
“I want to hear the bad news first,” I requested
“We are moving sooner than we had anticipated, Magdelina,” My father stated.
“When are we going, papa?”
“This is the only time we are going to be able to–” I cut my father short
“When are we leaving?” I begged.
“Tomorrow,” He said while looking at me with a glistening tear in his right eye.
I was so shocked that I didn’t even remember that there was also good news. No amount of good news could overcome the disappointment that had dwelled in me. I’m too curious of a person to ignore the fact that there was good news involved.
“Please tell me that the good news is very good news, momma,” I requested.
“The news is especially good for you,” She quickly added.
This made me feel relieved, and I can honestly say some of the pressure was immediately lifted off my shoulders.
“Tell me!” I yelled enthusiastically.
“Because of Zenovia’s parent’s poor health, he will be coming with us to America”
As soon as those fourteen words came out of my mother’s mouth, I was hit with an emotional wave and started crying tears of immense joy. Zenovia, the one true reason I wanted to stay in Romania, is coming with us to America. I’m leaving tomorrow for the land of the free, and the home of the brave, and Zenovia is coming with me. My initial beliefs about there being no news good enough to overcome the bad news were quickly changed. There was no more bad news. In fact, I couldn’t wait to leave.
My mother told me that Americans would appreciate my long, silky-smooth, brown hair. She told me that my heavily dark eyes would put wonder in American’s minds. She warned me that I’d be asked where I’m from a lot, but that I don’t have to answer to anyone that isn’t in authority. I really don’t know why she’d add that. She knows that my love for my country is a love that most girls my age don’t usually have. Mother also wanted to go over some basic English phrases, but my English was said to be the best in my town. I knew it wouldn’t harm to brush up, and maybe it could help my mother with her English. Some people speak broken English, but my mother’s English is completely destroyed. In some odd hours, I will be in America translating for my whole family. I have a feeling that my mother knew this day would come. I don’t think there’s any other reason she would’ve spent that hard-earned money on a tutor that would teach me English. I’m confident in my English, but I’m still worried that I will sound unintelligent when I speak to a native. What do I do if I don’t understand from a native tongue? What if I think that everything that comes out of American’s mouths is chaotic and ridiculous. At least I know how to properly ask where the facilities are.
When we arrived at the dock I couldn’t believe the size of the ship that I was about to board. My father knows I’m deathly afraid of the ocean, and large ships. He assured me it was a small vessel no bigger than two homes combined. This was not some mediocre vessel. This was a ship. A ship that was approximately the size of at least ten large homes. I looked at my father with sheer disappointment. I tried to act as if my feelings of disappointment from his dishonest description of the boat were stronger than my feelings of anxiety .
My legs were shaking as I stepped foot on the walkway from the dock to the ship. My mind was constantly fluttering with images of myself falling in the narrow opening at the end of the walkway to the ship. I looked down at my beautiful and petite mother. It seems like she gets shorter and shorter everyday. My mother is the only woman I know that is shorter than me. My mother, a stunning 4 feet 9 inches, is by far the strongest woman I know. Our life in the Carpathian Mountains wouldn’t have been so sweet without her. Now, as I’m taking my first step on the humongous and dirty , I imagine my life in America. More specifically, I’m contemplating life in Manhattan. It’s ought to be different, a lot different, but I’m ready.
It’s been three days on this horrid ship. I can’t stand it anymore. I’ve thought about walking overboard, but again, that’s how I over think things. I know the worst part is over, and now I’m just in that home stretch. We’re about one day away from reaching the inner harbor of New York City, New York. Goodbye beautiful Transylvania. My papa always told me “Always know your place, where you are at the moment. But never forget where you came from,”. It’s funny how I’m just being reminded of this today. I feel as though God is intervening and telling me to always remember Romania. I know that if I don’t remind myself of hard times in Romania I won’t be able to fully appreciate this blessing that me and my family have been given. I’ve never once felt as if I’d been dealt a bad hand in life because I know that’s the furthest thing from the truth. No matter how poor my family is, we are successful. Success isn’t measured by monetary wealth. Success is measured by happiness, and I’ll believe that until the day I die.
We are approaching the harbor of New York. Feelings of anxiety are flooding my head. The weird part about it is that I can also feel a sense of relief. Though I have no idea what America is going to be like, I feel that everything is going to be alright. As we’re approaching the 100 yard mark, I gather my belongings and push to the entrance of the ship. For someone who was hesitant about leaving Romania, I can’t wait to get off of the ship. My life in Romania has ended. But a new, more opportunistic life is about to begin. I can’t fully express my gratitude for this chance to be in America with my family, and Zenovia. As the doors to the exit of the ship open, I can hear my mom whisper ¨Thank you, God¨ in English under her breath. We finally made it to America. The land of the free, and the home of the brave. We’re home.