I remember when: Coming to America, Part Two
“I am cold,” the first words I spoke to my mom after we reunited. My mom and stepfather laughed hysterically as if I was joking. But I was not joking. The weather was very cold and windy. I knew then that my life has changed forever.
I felt cold as I stepped outside for the first time after landing in Chicago. Before that day came, I was in Haiti. I knew that I was soon coming to America, but I never imagined how fast that day would come.
April 13, 1997, was the day that I landed. I was 11-years-old, and off course, much colder days were ahead.
My grandmother, in Haiti, dressed me in a hideous all cream sleeveless pantsuit that she bought me as a gift. She made me wear it with matching socks and shoes. Then, my grandmother braided my hair and added the same color beads in my tresses.
The material of my outfit was light. Thus, as I landed in Chicago, I felt the cold air go through hit my body as if I had no clothes. Thankfully my mom bought me a coat, but for the few minutes that I didn’t have it one, I felt like I was going freeze to death.
Back in Haiti, as soon as I said my last goodbyes and entered the airport, I was in afraid. For the first time, I was alone; I didn’t have someone looking after me, answering questions for me, and holding my hands. My head kept turning to see if my dear grandma was there but I couldn’t see her in the sea of people outside; I was on my own.
My grandma and I made a pact a few days before my flight date. “No crying,” she said. “We are not going to cry, OK” she repeated, this time as an order. I kept my end of the bargain but I can’t say the same for her. I could see her eyes turning red and watery as I walked away from her and went inside the airport.
What kept me from crying was the excitement and fear I was feeling inside. I didn’t fully understand what was happening and when the plane took off, I wanted to scream but I remembered my grandmother’s order.
I had a feeling of loneliness inside the airport but I wasn’t alone at all. There was always someone with me, guiding my every step, showing my passport to immigration and telling me what to do when I went through security. As I was in the waiting area, a white woman with a really big smile started talking to me, she spoke broken French but I didn’t understand what she was saying. When it was time to board she came and got me, she wouldn’t leave me alone during the flight.
My father had given me a watch and some other gifts a few days before. I loved my watch and I taught I would keep it forever.
During the flight, snacks that came in a goody bag. I eat a piece of chocolate candy and left everything else in the bag. My father buckled the watch on my wrist himself that morning. The watch was tight and felt uncomfortable, so I took it off and threw it in the bag. Later, flight attendants came around collecting trash. I kept my bag in my hands because I knew I had something important inside. However, one guy, who didn’t speak french, kept pointing at my bag and saying something that I could not understand.
After a few minutes, I gave in and handed the man my bag. For whatever reason, I thought he was just keeping it until the flight landed. I never saw my watch again.
When we landed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I couldn’t hold it in anymore and when I realized that my watch was gone, I began to weep uncontrollably. I scared everyone. They offered me candy, toys, food, but nothing could make me stop crying.
I ended up missing my flight to Chicago. I slept in a nice hotel room that was air-conditioned with a flight attended. The room smelled sweet; it had modern decorations and two big beds with fluffy pillows and comforters.
The flight attendant turned on the TV and channel surfed until she decided to let me watch cartoons. I felt like a princess, but I was so tired at the same time. I fell asleep shortly after getting in bed.
My flight was early the next morning. Everything went smoothly except my luggage didn’t come until a month later. But we didn’t care, I was home.
I remember vividly landing at the Chicago O’Hare airport, I was alone and scared until I saw my mother who was patiently waiting for me. She smiled and tears came running down her face. We hugged, my step-father was there, he was happy also. He looked at me and said, “Welcome to America!”