On Saturdays the park is very active. Walking the ring around its perimeter, I pass a black man walking his sweet little poodle. There is a Hispanic couple ahead of me pushing a baby buggy while a toddler, still short of reaching his daddy's knee, is pretty wobbly on his feet. A man who has had a stroke struggles with his rehab and is as unsteady as the little toddler. On the grassy fields a group of girls are practicing their cheerleading routine. A couple of teenage boys are playing at quarterback and receiver. Families are streaming in. It's soccer Saturday and all levels of children in team uniforms are on the field. In one corner are what appear to be five or six year olds, socks bagging around their ankles, braids bouncing on their backs, running every which way.
This was the moment for me: a family enters the sidelines of a soccer field and are greeted by a friend who has been standing there. The man shakes hands with the dad and greets the young lad who's come to play soccer by putting his hand on the young man's head and ruffles his hair in an affectionate gesture. No one really sees it because the adults are looking at each other and talking but I have nothing else to do but walk and observe. I see the small smile of happiness on the boy. Genuine happiness. And seeing it, I'm happy, too, because he's happy and growing up in a world where he matters, where the adults, who are in charge of him, are in a place where they are not preoccupied with what the next moment or hour or day will bring; that they are not in fear that the next minute will bring bombs or explosions, death and destruction; that this young boy can be just that: a young boy, enjoying the attention of an adult, looking forward to a sunny morning of playing soccer.
Maybe it's because I grew up with stories of the war from my mother and how awful it was. Maybe because I've read too much on how lives were lost, families separated, children abused and exploited during that war that the moment struck me so keenly. Maybe because I know this is what my parents wanted for themselves and for us, too, when they sought refuge in America: to walk freely in a park among others no matter your, or another's, color or religion; to have your kids do cartwheels on the grass, or play kickball on a dirt lot and to laugh with their friends.
Each year on our Immigration Day, April 28, I celebrate my parents, the sacrifices and hardships they undertook so that I could be a happy kid in America, too.
Jo Ann Distefano Blatner
4/28/2021 01:54:06 pm
A beautiful article Sophie - you touch on things many don't even think about any more - that were a daily occurrence for our ancestors.
4/28/2021 08:17:30 pm
Jo Ann, thank you for reading. It's a subject very close to my heart.
Denise M Sullivan
4/28/2021 02:02:53 pm
Sophie- this is a lovely heartfelt piece. I never think of you or label you as an immigrant, only my fellow American and most importantly my friend.
4/28/2021 08:18:40 pm
Denise, your words broought tears to my eyes. Thank you.
4/28/2021 04:04:30 pm
Thank you, Sophie, for sharing your experience and how it made you happy. So much other news does NOT fill the air with joy as your recount of your Immigration Day does. Thank you, thank you!
4/28/2021 08:26:51 pm
Marilyn, thank you for reading. I'm happy every time I'm in a crowd and see all the diverse people of different backgrounds who make up America. Immigration Day is something I made up in my own head as a personal event for me and not a recognized national event/day but I think it should be!
4/28/2021 05:20:23 pm
Such a nice nostalgic piece. And, wow, that Manifest card (?) is quite an heirloom. You Hodorowiczes actually flew in on TWA? I must admit, I never heard of Immigration Day as I'm sure most native-born Americans haven't either. More publicity is needed.
4/28/2021 08:36:28 pm
Neil, Immigration Day is something I made up in my head as a personal reminder to me of the importance of the day we arrived in America. I think every immigrant cherishes that day as it changes their life forever. The plane manifest was part of papers I received from International Tracing Service quite a few years ago. And, yes, we did fly into New York, stopping in Greenland on TWA, paid for by the National Catholic Welfare Council. We all wore that button (NCWC) and my mother, thankfully, saved hers. The organizations active in helping people relocate were amazing. They have new names now, working all around the world, still helping, still caring.
Sharon P u l l a n o
5/3/2021 07:49:58 am
I read everything you send I'm really intrigued by what you say in your background I miss working with you you are an inspiration to us all
4/28/2021 08:04:17 pm
Thank you for sharing - that made my heart sing - I was only 4 when we landed in a very hot and dry November day in Australia - to me there was so much confusion - a bright hot sun....and so many people.....
4/28/2021 08:38:01 pm
Janina, so happy you and your family, like us, found a safe harbor.
4/28/2021 08:39:15 pm
Sophie - your story touched my heart. So grateful to hear about this special day in your life.
4/29/2021 06:33:31 am
Immigration, the change maker for many of us whether we are first generation, second or back years. The blessing and benefits of those big leaps of faith and moving forward. Your personal remembrance gives us all pause as we reflect . Thank you for your sharing and caring so much.
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One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.