For the first time since we moved here to Iowa three years ago, I’ve been invited to a Christmas cookie exchange in my neighborhood.
This kind of invitation could be considered obvious and granted for some, but to me, it meant a lot.
I don’t want to seem pathetic, or ridiculous, but for an immigrant be part of a typical event in the new country to which you moved means “integration” and the end of being “alone”.
I want to tell you how I felt when I arrived here.
Besides the obvious difficulties arising from the different language, the first feeling I had was that I stopped belonging- anywhere. I was no more Italian because too many miles separated me from my job, my family, my friends, my habits, my favorite shops, my car, and so on. I was not American at all, because I’m from another country!
And when you feel you don’t belong anywhere, you feel lonely.
You don’t have any idea where to start to find yourself again, who to ask, how to ask, and the danger to close yourself in just your family’s core is really close.
I was afraid of going to the grocery store because I was afraid that someone would ask me something that I couldn’t understand. For example, when the cashier asked me, “Did you find everything okay?” I wasn’t able to realize what that actually meant! I was afraid of going to fill up the car with gas because I was not familiar with the credit card system. I was afraid to recharge my mobile phone credit, because it was impossible for me to understand the recorded voice on the phone. I just prayed that nobody left me any messages on my phone’s voice mail, because I was sure I would never understand its content, and at the same time, every phone call I made, I hoped that somebody answered and I not be request to leave a voice message. I was afraid of switching on my own TV (I’m not kidding!), because it needs three different remote controls to make it work!!! Everything scared me, but most of all, the felling of being alone. Being with my husband and my daughter kept me “alive,” but I needed more- I cannot explain why.
Then, one day my next door neighbor invited me to a Bunco night. So finally I met the ladies of my neighborhood. But there is nothing more embarrassing- I wasn’t able to catch up their conversations because they talked too fast, and about subjects I didn’t know. It was hard for me to really show my personality because I was not able to be funny or entertaining… but you know what? I kept going to the Bunco nights in the months that followed, and with each passing month, I started to feel more comfortable, more relaxed, and maybe also funny!
Having the chance to share few moments with others ladies gave me the possibility to understand better the country I moved to, and helped me grow and feel I finally belonged somewhere.
Now I can definitely say that here I feel “home” more than I feel when I go back to Italy for vacation, and I have to thank for this all the kind American people I’ve met… from the sale-persons at the grocery store, the daycare employees, and especially the ladies of my neighborhood (one in particular)…
THANKS FOR LETTING ME BEING PART OF YOUR LIFE!
And just yesterday, I’ve been invited to the Christmas cookies exchange in my neighborhood. It is “just” a cookie exchange, but being invited made me feel so happy….
because, in the end, “HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED” (Christopher Johnson Mccandless).