My family and I comprise a first generation immigrant household. It’s hard to sum up every adversity we’ve faced in this neat little box. Money is tight, to say the least, and too often it’s a day-to-day struggle. My first job was at the local pizza store my parents opened when I was nine. Since then, my father has left us and come back again, and I’ve worked half a dozen other jobs to help make ends meet. When I last met with my academic adviser, she scolded me as to why my grades were lower than they should be. “Isn’t school more important than petty cash in your pocket?” she asked. I work two jobs, over 40 hours a week. There is no cash in my pocket but at least there is food on the table and a roof over our heads.
I was born into a family of pride, of honor. My father was a professor, my mother a nurse. My mother wore a dress on her wedding day with white grace and pure glory. My sister and I were born “in the war years,” when the Soviet began to crumble and neighboring countries found weakness in our borders and luck in their endeavors. These are the stories I was told. But we were well to do – there was always food on the table. Fast forward. Reach away like the limbs of an old, wise tree 20 years. We have begun to regain strength in our stance. Third time is a charm, the story of our lives. We have crawled through the storms. Through mud and fire and apocalypse. I had my first white hair at 16. I didn’t grow as tall as my mother. My teeth as crooked as our paths, so many details not worth mentioning. No one knows, I won’t grant anyone the pleasure. Not even here will I risk it.