Pop keeps smiling, keeps saying, “Welcome to America. Look at this beautiful land. It’s perfect.”
I’ve never seen pop this joyful. He sang a song out loud as we walked down Mulberry street yesterday. Then said, “What a world this America is. We should have come sooner.”
A week in America and the old country is now a memory, though one that will never be long gone. For each in our family, leaving was felt uniquely. Pop was most mixed. Mama most excited. I most indifferent. My sister most bitter. At seventeen, with a boyfriend and many friends, leaving broke her heart. She went weeks without talking to mama and pop. Now at least, she acknowledges them with curt sentences and pleasantries. The pain, though, has not left her eyes. And we can all hear her tears at night.
Back in the old country, we lived in a quiet countryside near a town of many years past. In the maze of social hierarchy, our place in society was at the bottom, ostracized, scapegoats to whatever calamity needed someone for blame. Life was peaceful most of the time. But the times of turmoil, the pogroms, kept us from living with peace of mind.
Now we are Americans, even if not officially; we certainly feel like members of the land of the free and the brave. People keep saying to us, “Welcome to America, the better life.” Nothing ruins this dream for us either, not the rotten stench from trash everywhere, or the pick-potters, not the fights that occasionally break out between gangs.
After weeks of living with an uncle and his family, we move into our apartment in the tenement. Pop has the biggest smile I’d ever seen on him when he says, “People keep saying to us, welcome to America. Now I say welcome home,” in front of our new front door.
- “Welcome to America” is a work of historical fiction. The story, characters, and incidents are fictitious.
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