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.
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.