It wasn’t until recently that I have been figuring out where I fit in this world. I am forty six and some may call that ancient and some remark “Just now you’re figuring this out.” I am a child of the “Me Generation,” although I didn’t know it. I believe in me, but not in the selfish or sordid sense of the word. Before I knew there was such a thing as “Generation X” it was just me and the rest of the world, but isn’t that how a child sees the world?
The difference in my life is that I am an immigrant’s child. Our journey was not meandering or tortuous, and we didn’t walk the cold mountains of Tecate or trudge the poisonous Tijuana River, which runs through both nations, or even brave the Rio Grand. We just flew into New York.
No, it wasn’t first class, but as a child it might as well have been, sitting in that narrow window seat. My father who was a talented shoemaker sold both of his small businesses lock stock and barrel, and at a loss I might add, to find his great light, in that great New York City we sometimes mar in spite.
He arrived in New York a newly minted green-card immigrant ready to work but with no job in hand. He scraped and got by, by cleaning some else’s dishes and someone else toilets until he could finally embrace and touch his young family with his hardened bulbous hands.
The journey across the skies was eventful as I marveled at the wispy puffy clouds. The pilot’s announcements didn’t stir me, as I arose in between my naps. My mother sat across from me, with my sister in the middle, protecting her little clutch, when she excitedly woke me that eventful night.
Night had fallen as we approached JFK International airport, in New York. White, flickering little lights pooled off in that dark and distant night represented that great metropolis. Flying over water was a scene I will always remember, as the city was reflected on the water, as Christmas lights. Every time I’ve made that flight I remember that first evening when I became an immigrant in that eventful night.
Well fed and ruddy, at school the teacher said “He is big enough so let’s put him into first grade” Not speaking any “Ingles” I could only stare and wonder at what their lips were saying. Now, I reflect as though I was Charlie Brown sitting in the class and listening to my teacher say, “Wah, Wah wah Waah.”
It was in that instant that I was branded “X” across my forehead even though I was not hopeless, cynical, or a slacker, but there began my drifting and frustration stereo typical of my generation labeled “X.” Feeling empty and knowing nothing I knew I had that glassy look when someone is drifting and you look into their eyes, and the only response you get is “What?”
After the Navy and seventeen years of missionary work never needing and always giving, now I’m making it because I believe in who I am, and what I am not.
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