My grandmother moved to the United States from Mexico when she was in her 20’s, looking for work to feed my mother. She gave up everything she knew to start a new life. However, immigration told her she could only choose one, a life in Mexico, or one in the Unites States. Under her agreement, she was not allowed to declare residency in the United States, and even if she did, she was not allowed to travel across the border. She did both. My grandmother couldn’t go two years without seeing her daughter.
My mother crossed the border with a student visa when she was 9. She excelled in school, way more than any other kid. The education system here has never been the best. She grew up in an era of racism, gang wars, and through the second wave of feminism. She bought mens 501s and sat in bathtubs of blue waters to fit them to her female curves. She sewed her own prom dresses and wore her hair long and wavy like a true Californian. And through it all, she never got along with her step-dad, who treated her like a servant–demanding the world and more from her. And although I wish she had it easier, as no one should wish hardship on others, it made her the strongest woman I know. Her nurturing raised me, my sister, my friends, and children we have never seen again since their grade school years. She taught us all how to hold pencils and ride bikes, how to be polite and how to stand up for our own beliefs. She’s a powerhouse of a being who isn’t afraid to admit her faults and never feels the unknown. And I love her so.
Recently, my mother told me a story about her crossing the border. My grandmother had illegally crossed back to Mexico after illegally declaring residency so she could visit my mother, numerous times. On my grandmothers cross back to the United States, with my mom’s small hand in hers, the immigration guard checking their papers said to them, “I knew it. I knew there was a reason you kept crossing back over. I’ve checked your papers each time and something told me not to turn you in. She’s your reason.”
There are good people in this world. Sometimes they don’t know it, and most of the time the rest of the world doesn’t see it. If it weren’t for that guard keeping it silent, I may not be here today, my mother probably wouldn’t either and my grandmother could have been in huge trouble. But here we are.
And the strength of the women in my family. They are all so beautifully strong. I can only hope I have a sliver of that strength in myself.
Happy United States Mother’s Day!