Day 13 of doing a 31-day poetry prompt challenge . Today’s prompt was “On a Moonlit Stage”.
Day 9 of doing a 31-day poetry prompt challenge . The prompt was “Drenched in Memories” .
From the ages of 18 to 23, I worked for a government agency as an interpreter. I was well-liked by many of my coworkers and my first supervisor was appreciative of me. I was very good at my job and even cross-trained in many other areas that didn’t “pertain to my job”. However, at that job, I was also bullied and discriminated against for being Latina. I was also slut-shamed by my second supervisor and coworkers the latter 2 years I was there. I don’t want to say I deserved being slut-shamed but I’ll just say that I trusted the wrong coworkers with my private life and they went on to gossip about me to everyone. It was also a very stressful environment because of the work I did and clients I had to interact with. My depression and anxiety went haywire. In 2003, I decided to enroll in my local community college and major in English. In 2004, I was trying to go to school full time, work full time, and deal with my child’s new autism diagnosis. I was breaking down mentally and something had to give so I quit this job. I was fucking done. And this poem was inspired by that moment. I thought I had processed this trauma until it came back up in therapy in the summer of 2021. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had suffered a deep racial trauma that impacted me and still triggered reactions in me. I was angry. There is actually way more to this story and one day I’ll share it when I’m ready.
This was the hardest thing I did
but it had to be done
I couldn’t stand the gossip
or the two faces of everyone
the way they pretended to be my friend
but the minute I turned my back to them
they talked like I was the biggest wench
so much envy and hate
I HAVE TO ESCAPE
FROM THIS MISERABLE FATE!
so today I resigned
I didn’t tell them why
all I know is that for the first time
in a really long time
I feel something like happy
so long to the only place I have known
for an almost five year term
for once I breathe a sigh of relief
I finally had the courage to leave
so long to the hypocrisy of this place
to let myself stay here for another day
would only be a fucking waste
I wrote this in 2003 reflecting on the immigration of me and my family. The first six year we were in the United States was a nightmare. I’m not sure how much I will share of my immigration story because of all the trauma involved.
I was five at the time
when my parents lied
they said it was going to be great
our brand new fate
we were going away
so we could be safe
we weren’t exactly prepared for
the horrors we would endure
the hardships and struggles
the wonder of it all
why did they persuade us
in them we lost our trust
now we’ll never again believe
what they want us to see
When me and my family first immigrated to the U.S in September of 1986; Thanksgiving was a foreign concept to us. We were introduced to Thanksgiving by our extended family members who were seasoned veterans in celebrating this American Holiday. I was 5 when I immigrated to this country so my memories of our first or second Thanksgiving are pretty blurry.
What I do remember is going to my uncle’s house where my aunts, uncles and numerous cousins would gather. My mother sat with my aunts and grandmother while they shared the latest chisme (aka-gossip) while they cooked and later on served dinner to the kids and the men. Yay for machismo culture <insert sarcasm>. My father and my uncles drank together while they joked around. I remember playing with my cousins or following my sister upstairs with our teenage cousins to the bedroom with the TV to watch music videos with George Michael ,Rick Astley blasting on MTV. Maybe that’s how I acquired my sometimes basic taste in music.
I also remember that since we were away from adults, our cousins took the opportunity to teach me and my sister all of the bad words in English. Haha. Another fond memory that comes to mind is the newest babies being passed around the aunts or the older female cousins. There wasn’t such a thing as asking permission from the parents for their baby unless of course the child is being nursed. I also remember hating the taste of turkey. It tasted like rubber to me.
There was warmth and laughter in this idyllic setting of Thanksgiving but that’s not the whole picture. There was also unpleasantness. My mom is one of nine children and with that many personalities; there was no way to avoid drama when all of them gathered in one space. There were more than a few petty conflicts between family members on Thanksgiving and other holidays gatherings.
My mother decided after a couple of Thanksgivings it would be better to celebrate Thanksgiving at home by ourselves. So my mother learned how to season and make a turkey and stuffing. Instead of the traditional green bean casserole or sweet potato pie; our sides were Peruvian Potato Salad and Macaroni Salad accompanied by Peruvian Hot Chocolate and Dad’s famous alcoholic Peruvian eggnog. We would watch movies rented from the local video store while we waited for the turkey to be ready. When my dad started getting tipsy, he would start playing Spanish Christmas Carols, Huaynos, and Musica Criolla. It was music that my teenage sister would cringe at and me and my brother would tolerate. I didn’t realize then but I do realize now that my father was in his own way trying to make sure that we wouldn’t forget our roots as we were living this new life in America. My parents tried their best to make sure that our strong Peruvian culture and traditions were not forgotten as we acclimated to the the new Americanized way of living. When dinner was ready, we would sit down at the table. I ,being the youngest and most impressionable by my then Catholic School upbringing, would ask the family to say a prayer and ask them to say something they were thankful for. I think I was seven or eight at the time but I guess my parents thought it was a good tradition to start. And of course, my siblings would get annoyed but they did it.
Despite those first few Thanksgivings when we lived very much under the poverty line; it was still a happy time for us as a family. My parents made sure that Thanksgiving was almost always filled with warmth, love, and laughter. One could say that what Thanksgiving meant to my newly arrived immigrant family then was learning how to incorporate our culture into a new American holiday like Thanksgiving. While my parents understood the importance of assimilation; they still made sure me and my siblings didn’t forget our culture. Today, I’m filled with gratitude that my parents brought the best of both cultures to Thanksgiving and most holidays in their own unique way. I’ve been able to bring these bicultural traditions to my own family while also making new traditions.