Publisher’s Note: I get a lot of different letters and communications from lots of people about lots of topics. Some of them grab my attention, some not so much. The following is a brief story about one immigrant family which no doubt played out countless times with other families in cities all across America in the years following WWII.
It’s a story of risk, of determination and hard work, and a story that speaks to a time not so long ago when immigrants did what they had to do, sometimes very painfully, to get here LEGALLY; when they didn’t ask for special privileges or handouts, learned to speak English, and when they assimilated into the culture of America. This is about a time when one came to America looking for a better life with a skillset; about a time when immigrants embraced the opportunities and became Americans, and didn’t expect America to become what they left behind.
As a side note, this is sort of a continuation of this story published on these pages a couple of weeks ago.
This is the same friend of a friend who, due to the politically charged times we are witnessing, still needs to remain anonymous due to potential retribution because she doesn’t choose to fall in lock step with those who would abuse this great nation. How sad that we are rapidly arriving at a place where a miniscule minority is getting away with trampling upon our basic liberty of expression.
Given tonight’s speech by President Trump, this could not be a more timely story.
I will refer to her simply as “Friend of Lee Ann.”
Friend Of Lee Ann: I know a lot of legal immigrants have had similar experiences, here is mine.
I came to this country at the age of fifteen, but the story does not begin here. In the 1950s, the doors to the United States had opened for Europeans. Yes, the doors to this country would open, and the doors to this country would close. These rules were set by the United States government to control immigration. My father took this opportunity and decided to migrate to America.
To this day, I can picture myself as a little girl with tears in her eyes as I wave goodbye to a ship with my daddy on board waving back. I was the apple of my daddy's eye, and little did I know I would not see him again for a very long time. It was not easy for him or for my mother who was due to have a second baby.
In order to come to the States, my father had to find a host sponsor that would guarantee food and shelter until he got on his feet. Leaving his family behind and after eleven days at sea, he landed in New York, and from there, he went to his host family.
Two days after my father’s departure, the baby came. The only communication we would ever have was by snail-mail that took over a week to reach us. I can still remember how excited we were when our mother sat us down to read the letters from our father.
As an immigrant here in his new home, my father worked very hard at different kinds of jobs until he found his niche. Within five years of his arrival, he established a very successful restaurant for himself. It took him long hours of hard work, but through determination he succeeded. This was known as the American dream..!
After seven years, and for the first time since leaving, my father came back to his homeland. I was a lot older by then, and the newborn baby he had never met was seven years old. It was a very emotional reunion for all of us! He spent some time with us in our home country, and then returned back to the United States. Three years would pass, to which my father made one more trip to the homeland, before the entire family would end up in America together. I was in high school now.
In school, there were no special programs for my brother and me who spoke no English. We were fully immersed into the public school system, and it was either sink or swim.
Within six months, we were completely aware of everything that was going on in class, in addition to being able to catch up with whatever we had missed. This is the reason I never supported bilingual education. In my opinion, it holds children back rather than help them get ahead.
Later in life, I made my daddy very proud again. I chose to take a husband of my heritage, someone that my daddy could relate to. Both my mother and father were a big part of our extended family. They helped raise their grandchildren and were later blessed to spoil six great-grandchildren. I took care of them towards the end of their lives, and they lived to a good old age.
Life has not been picture perfect for any of us. We have had our ups and downs, and just like anyone else had our shares of struggles. One of my favorite sayings has always been, "If it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger."
Through example, one of the greatest lessons my parents taught me is the value of hard work in order to get ahead in life.
Between my duties to my husband, children and parents, I tried my hand on a lot of different things. Today, I have a very successful restaurant of my own that I've been running for the past twenty-two years. Not the one that my father gave me, the one he taught me how to build!