Thoughts from an immigrant Mom

I have these flashes of memory sometimes. They are intense, visceral kernels of memory that, for a singular moment, take me back home. My favourite moments are actually the the most mundane memories. Just the other day, I was talking to my partner when all of a sudden I remembered standing in a big parking lot in Point-a-Pierre, Trinidad. The parking lot is opposite the tennis courts my friends and I would to frequent. For a moment, though standing in my Toronto kitchen, I could feel the gentle Marabella breeze and see the swaying palm trees that line the perimeter of the lot. I could remember smelling the mild saltiness of the air and feeling the exhilarating warmth of a great tennis workout. That memory was not particularly significant. It is valuable to me only because it was a perfectly ordinary day that belonged to another incarnation of my life. Those perfectly normal moments from when I lived in Trinidad – the moments I took for granted for their plainness – those memories are now irreplaceable nuggets of nostalgia.

My daughter is 5 months old now and in having her, I’ve reopened a trove of memories and emotions that I’d long forgotten. When I was young I didn’t think I’d have children. When I allowed myself that fantasy though, I imagined taking my child to see practices at steel pan yards or to play traditional Red Indian Mas in south Trinidad. I imagined pushing her on the swings at San Fernando Hill Playground or rolling about in the sand at Mayaro Beach. Even in my dreams, I find myself thinking about my childhood and the places that meant something to me. Though I’ve been in Canada for a long time, still, the stories of my life are layered onto the most mundane places, in Trinidad. Places where I loved and laughed. But I don’t live there anymore. And in some senses those places no longer exist.

The truth is though, that my daughter will likely grow up in Toronto. These streets will be her stage. I might take her to visit those places. But really? She’d just be visiting. Her story will be vastly different from my own. This is part of being an immigrant. I have not yet made this place mine, but she certainly will by virtue of the fact that this is the first world she will come to know. I wonder about that. I worry about that. It took me 10 years to figure out how to dress appropriately for winter. How in the world am I supposed to guide her in a land that I don’t really know myself?

I look at events across the border and I worry; what if one day she’s not wanted here? I made a gamble by trading community ties and familiarity in Trinidad for freedom and safety from crime here in Canada. What if that gamble backfires and this place becomes more dangerous to her?

I’m encouraged by the new found community here that motherhood has shown me. I’m encouraged by the liberal values that Toronto exhibits. In the present political climate, though my gamble is currently safe, I mourn for non-white immigrants in America and Syrian refugees everywhere. In them I see my own worst fears played out as the caprice of nations sell out human rights and dignity. I wish I could promise my daughter certainty. Certainty however, appears to be fools gold.

Change is a step towards evolving

For as long as I can remember change has been part of my life. Every four years there was something new happening: a new school, new living arrangements, and therefore new friends. Growing up, I used to pretend my life was a movie that aliens watched very closely. I think it helped me look forward to whatever change was coming, and anticipate the new adventures by taking away the fear.

But in the last couple of weeks, the changes that have happened are even surprising me. In a year and a half, I’ve: moved to Paris, completed a semester at a French university, got a job at a hotel as a receptionist, and today I started a job back in journalism. Plus I  learned French, ran a half-marathon, and on schedule to run another  in Amsterdam in October. I think this is the life my mother wanted for my sister and I when we moved to New York. A life with opportunities to choose what we wanted. A sense of adventure that embraces change and enjoys the challenges that come with it.

During my training session at work today, someone said: When I started working here, it was the first time that I saw blacks, Arabs, and whites talking, laughing and interacting. Apparently, that was unheard of for a French company.

It was the very first time I heard someone mentioned diversity in France. You always hear about diversity initiatives, how they add to the experience of all. And today during lunch it really was truly evident. There we were, four journalists, from totally different backgrounds that together spoke seven different languages. Change has a way of deciding what kind of person you want to be: a) do you move forward and face a challenge, or b) stay in the safety of what you know, and pray that it stays like that forever?

But in life nothing is permanent. I am part of that wave of change.