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A Beautiful Tribute From My Fans

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Road of the New Beginning

By Mrs.D. 

The plane touched the ground softly, calming my worries about our uncertain future. My children glued their faces to the tiny window, staring at the American flag atop the tiled roof happily waving in the wind. Assuring refuge, success, and stability, it also guaranteed a good life and prosperity. 

We arrived in the United States on a breezy March day—chilly for New York, but warm for Ukraine. My mother’s family was waiting for us in the arrival hall, waving tiny American flags and holding flowers. Their glittering balloons swayed in the air, which was filled with the aroma of spring.

Looking at the unfamiliar people and listening to the strange language, my children felt uneasy and asked to go back home. I pushed our small belongings closer to the checkpoint, trying to cross the line faster and put my old life behind me. Waiting for our turn, I comforted my girls with stories about the many beautiful places they would go and the life they would have in their new country. Deep inside, I knew I would not be able to keep my promises and show them this new land in all its beauty. Hanging on to my dreams, I hoped that I would at least be able to give them a better life than they would have had in unstable Ukraine.

Watching their tired faces, I hid my insecurity behind brief smiles, which slid off my face like a spring rain. What if this new country was only a dream? What if this was only my wild imagination? Though it was powerful, encouraging, and successful, at the same time America looked unfamiliar, challenging, and hasty. What life would my children face, uprooted from their former land and stripped from their culture? What would the future hold for them without their family and true identity? What sort of mother would I become without a profession and knowledge of the language, traditions, and culture, and with no clue how to raise my girls in this new world? Clinging to my hands as if they were their life support, my girls looked sad and uncertain.

That turbulent March passed in searching for a place to live and learning how to adapt to new surroundings. Unlike other refugees, we were lucky to have a close family, who sheltered us and helped us for months. Together, we hit the garage sales and thrift stores, trash piles and dumpsters. It’s true that someone else’s unwanted trash can be a golden treasure for others. We found many useful things for our home and garden. It was hard not to question myself and not to feel degraded while going through the piles of rubbish. I felt as if I had failed my children’s American dream.

We had lived in the ancient city of Lviv, famous for its long history and brave people, who for centuries fought for freedom and a better future. Back in Ukraine I had a family. I had a job. I had a real home. But what I did not have was freedom: the free country I craved, where I could raise my children among honest and decent people.

It was 1992, the year when my old country struggled to lift itself from the rubble and inflation left after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Long lines of people, snaking around buildings and streets, were waiting for food. There were shortages of the most common things, like toothpaste and toilet paper. But in America, valuable goods were often thrown in the garbage just because people wanted to buy new things. I tried to wrap my head around their wasteful mentality and accept their way of thinking.

We spent many evenings picking up things from the trash—quality furniture, toys, kitchen appliances, and other stuff. Loaded with goodies, we worked for weeks, repainting, refinishing, and fixing old things. While working, I thought about our life in Ukraine, worrying about what we’d left behind: blooming roses, the garden in the backyard, flowering strawberries, musky raspberries, hanging from the bushes like red Christmas lights, piquant tomatoes, and every possible green that I had managed to plant after the Chernobyl catastrophe.

April came with a warm wind, carrying a salty savor of the deep ocean. The bloom of new and different trees warmed our feelings toward our new land. New Jersey in spring was an unusually beautiful land, dressed in colorful flowers. The old garden thrived with lilacs and magnolias, cherry and dogwood trees, and exotic flowers planted by the previous owners. The plum tree blossoms hung low above our narrow windows, creating colorful flowery curtains, charming pedestrians and drivers eyeing the old house sinking in flowers. The blossoming trees became shelter and friends for my children for many years.

May arrived with sunshine and warm rains. Dressed in pink and white, the old garden was ready for Mother’s Day. The minute I saw my girls smiling, I knew it would be a special day for me. The front door was covered in notes, directing what I should do when I entered the house. The arrow on the floor, covered in pinkish flowers, pointed to the kitchen. Walking on the soft petals, I tried not to cry. The second arrow led to the kitchen table, decorated with flowers from the garden and gems from our treasures. The chair was wrapped in a silk scarf, securely tied in a huge bow on its back. Holding back tears, I sat in the chair and read my next note. It said to wait. Hiding my desire to hug my children, I waited.

“It’s for you, Mom.” My younger daughter pulled a plate from the fridge. It was full of sliced vegetables and fruit. A few tender flowers towered on top of the colorful fruit salad, dripping with maple glaze. Touched, I cried. It had been a long, hard road to that day, the road of acceptance and love, the road of the new beginning.

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy.” My little girl comfortably settled on my knees. Sobbing, I looked at the strange mix of fruit and veggies, wondering how she was able to cut a carrot. She was a few months shy of her fifth birthday and was not allowed to use a knife.

“It’s good, Mommy. Eat!” My daughter stared in my eyes, looking for my approval.

“Yummy!” I dug my fork into a hard fruit. “Thank you, baby!” I hugged her tight, feeling an earthy love and pride in my child. “How did you manage to cut a carrot?” I asked, surprised.

“I didn’t,” she giggled. I looked at her older sister.

“I was in charge of making a bubble bath with flowers and coupons for whenever you need my help.” She shrugged.

“Did you use a knife?” I looked suspiciously at my younger daughter.

“Rules are rules, Mommy.” She fished a piece of carrot from my plate. “No knife! I chewed them into small pieces,” she said. Looking closer at the veggies, I recognized the marks of her baby teeth on the edges of the carrot.

“This is the most delicious fruit salad I’ve ever eaten.” I proudly chewed uneven veggies, swallowing them with my happy tears.

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!” Then they dragged me to the bathroom to take my flowery bath in the middle of the day.

 Thank you for reading my blog.