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  • Annamaria Nemeth

Landing in America.

The flight to New York was long and tiresome. So many firsts for me and my mom. (My mom was 43 at the time; it’s so hard to believe that she is turning 80 this year.) As we were getting ready to land in New York and go through customs, my stomach was churning. We had had horrible experiences going through customs leaving Romania and so many of our belongings had been confiscated. What will this be like? In a country that doesn’t even know us, would it be even worse? I can imagine now how hard this must have been for both of my parents to start over in a place where the language, culture, and social norms were so totally different.

We landed and followed the line through customs. It wasn’t bad at all and everyone was welcoming and nice to us. The hard part, of course, was the language barrier. This is where I recalled my English teacher’s words. “You will regret not putting effort into learning. You have such great potential.” Well, now I did regret my past lack of effort. I wished I had paid attention and learned more. School and I, though,did not have a good relationship as I have mentioned before.

We made it through customs and then we were to travel on to Los Angeles. First things first, though. We decided to take a bathroom break. This part was a little funny. I’m not sure if any of you have had experiences with the bathrooms in Europe. Well, they are very simple. The water tank for flushing is above the toilet on the wall and is not part of the toilet. The only thing connecting the two are the pipes on the wall. To flush you pull a cord that is connected to this tank and, presto, it flushes the toilet. Or for public toiltes you had a simple whole in the floor, almost like a covered outhouse here. In this American bathroom for the first time I had the pleasure of a totally puzzling experience. However, for me, this was a first, a simple thing as how does this toilet functions. Once I figured out how to flush the toilet I realized just how much I will have to adjust too. Well, I could see that some of my learning would be about the very basics in our cultural and societal differences. I had a lot to learn.....Something told me that this new world was far more advanced than the one I had left behind. Ok then, I was ready. Bring it on!

The next step was meeting up with my father and seeing what this new life would bring to us. I am not sure which I was more nervous about.....We landed, got our luggage and then we looked for my father. I wondered if he had changed. Peopledo change; I believed that. And there he was. He seemed very excited and nervous too. I guess we all were. It had been over three years. In some ways it was so nice to see him and I was so hopeful for a better life here. We hugged, we cried. We just stood there for a while and let this reunion sink in. But part of me felt so guarded and cautious as if I was standing near a stranger.

Thinking back, though, I had learned to accept the good times and deal with the challenges as they came. I so badly hoped for a peaceful life with both my parents. To my mom this was so important; she was with the only man she had ever loved all her life. She too, was hopeful. I could tell she was happy. When my mom smiles the whole world lights up around her.

We gathered our luggage and started heading towards the car. A car! Not many people had vehicles back home. Public transportation and walking were our very regular ways of getting around. Here, it was different. We drove from LA to Quail Valley where my dad had bought a house. It was evening and the lights were so beautiful. Even though I had grown up in the city, we did not have lights like these. Everything was lit up everywhere. Oh, the beauty of the city! It was almost magical.

As we started driving away from the city the lights became more sparse. We then hit the highway,  I couldn't understand how electricity was spread throughout the highway. There were little lights everywhere, as far as the eye could see. Of course later I learned that these were reflectors and not actual lights. The city lights were getting dimmer and dimmer in the distance. My parents were talking in the front seat but I couldn't tell you anything thing they, or we, talked about on that ride. My mind was wondering about this new life and as the darkness engulfed the car, I actually dozed off.

When I woke up we were at our new home. It was rural, had a dirt driveway, and a nice screened porch. We then walked in. There was a bedroom, a living room where my bed was set up, a dining area, and a kitchen. It was an open concept but very small. Around the corner was a hall that led to the bathroom and the back entrance. On my bed lay a stuffed dog. I actually really liked that and even though I was fifteen, I was happy to have it. It was, in some way, very comforting to me.

It was late, we were all very tired, and I don't recall talking much at home that night either. There was excitement but then there wasn't. My father mentioned that there were people who wanted to meet us and we would go visit them the next day. After that, we all went to bed. I fell asleep hugging my new stuffed dog, which was pretty good-sized, and I was thinking about this new life and what it might be like.So far it seemed to be going ok.

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