For purple mountain majesties,
Above the fruited plain,
But now wait a minute, I'm talking about
America, sweet America,
You know, God done shed his grace on thee,....Ray Charles
....so I arrived at JFK after many, many hours...pigtails in tact, suit slightly rumpled, papers in small bag, anxious ....got off the plane and the family that had so graciously helped me along and I were separated. They lived in Chicago and were moved along to try and find a connecting flight considering how long we were delayed. I never saw them again...I have thought of them periodically since. I looked around and was moved to a kiosk....back then if you were coming as a minor to parents with a Greencard you got one too, at the airport! So I answered my usual "hello my name is Juliana Badescu"...smiled at the first black man I ever saw in person and touched his skin and then pointed to mine. I remember bits of him, he was large and he smiled and patted my hand. Now some of you may wonder why would they make a child do all that paperwork on their own with no translator...I got nothing for you.
Meanwhile on the other side of the sliding glass doors you had 2 parents, who have not seen their child in a few years, a mother pacing and crying, a father nervous and making jokes. You have 2 people who see all these folks come off the long delayed flight, a flight they knew was stuck in Amsterdam for many hours - how did their baby (in their minds a 5 year old still) survive and the people keep on coming and their daughter...not. They are desperate, maybe they never let her go, though a phone call had confirmed she had gotten on the plane, maybe something went wrong...maybe, maybe ...where was their child? As the last of the passengers get off my Mother in a desparate state, with tears, grabs a young boy coming through the doors..his mother grabs him back and says "please do not take my son...please" the mothers start to cry...my Mother asks "I am looking for my daughter..her name is Juliana'..and the mother and son laugh. They tell my mother of how I spoke to all on the plane, how another family had helped me and that I too must be doing my paperwork. This relieves and troubles my Mother...paperwork, she does't speak English. She looks up and among the last of the people is a taller girl than she remembers, with the same smile she knows, pig tails with big bows (you know the ones every Eastern bloc girl had them in pictures from that era) that my Mother hates ...her baby but not...a bigger girl.
I loved the reunion, the laughter, the crying, the hugs...my parents. The relief they must have felt. The hard work they both had, both having to work the next day (my father nights). I got up and my Mom had left, I accidentally locked myself in their bedroom (the door would jam due to weathering if you closed it), I cried and beat on the floor thinking my father was in their friend's apartment (he was ..their friend is my 2nd Mom who now lives and lived in Spain at the time). I cried because I thought they would, maybe...send me back for making such a mistake. My Dad got me and told me that it was ok...he held me...he told me we had to get milk, bread...I laughed at him. Did he not know that unless you lined up at 6am you got no milk, did he not know that bread only came on certain days?...That is the things every child knows in a Communist country. You know that lines are how you hope you to get food...that you hope they do not run out before you get to the front. He took me to the supermarket, I had the same reaction anyone who came after me and I saw had, stared at the abundance..what kind of magical land was this? I stared at the milk, at any hour, available to get. I asked him to stay in the bakery with me, Parisi in Astoria-still among the best bread ever, as I have never smelled fresh baked bread before. There was a small line to pay...only to pay because they had plenty!
I am an American by choice. I have dual citizenship and I am proud of my European traits, beliefs and blood...but I am an American now because it is the most imperfect and perfect place I have ever been. I love American optimism and the generosity of this country. I still get teary at the national anthem and sad when the country is going through tough times. I am European in not beating myself up about what the government does, hell the Europeans have done and do much worse but count on the Americans lack of interest in history and geography to not know that. Americans who only have negative things to say about their country are so American in my view...disgruntled because they have the privilege to be so publicly, with a bit of child like petulance. I love my friends who believe they can make a difference because in small ways and maybe in large they can. We owe fellow Americans the generosity we as a nation extend to other nations and I know we can be great because of the diverse people and cultures that chose to make this their home.
Everywhere around the world
They're coming to America
Every time that flag's unfurled
They're coming to America....."America" Neil Diamond