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FAMILY REUNION

Embracing her dreams

I came to Los Angeles just to be with my parents, but then I found the door to the future.

April 09, 2006|Patricia Mendez | PATRICIA MENDEZ is the pseudonym of an 18-year-old senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights. .

WAITING in a place I had never been, for people I hadn't seen for six years, made me feel something I couldn't describe. I didn't know if I was nervous or happy, or both.

My sister, Esperanza, and I had traveled from Tijuana to Los Angeles to be reunited with our parents after many years. At first I was scared. What if we get lost and I don't find my parents? What was I going to say to them?

I thought about what my mother might be thinking. Was she worried we might not remember her? Or that we might be mad at her for having left us? Would she explain that she had left Mexico to find a better life for all of us?

Then I saw them. At first I didn't know if they were really my parents or just some other human beings. I thought they would look like they did in the pictures I had of them in Mexico -- skinny and kind of small, but they looked different. They seemed bigger and well-fed, and they both looked a little older. Still, I knew they were my parents. I wondered, if I hug them, will they hug me back?

"Mis hijas, how are you both?" my mom said. "Don't be afraid. We're here now. Tell me, how do you two feel?"

"I feel good, and I'm happy to see you again, but I'm also tired," I said.

"Let's go home now so that we can all rest. We'll talk more tomorrow," my mom said.

Then I hugged my mother and my father, and I felt so happy because I knew that even though it had been a long time since we'd seen each other, they were my parents, and they loved my sister and me.

On the way to the house, we talked about how we felt now that we were together again. My sister and I talked about our lives in Mexico and how much we had missed them. My mom asked how my grandparents treated us and if they took good care of us, which they did.

At first, talking with them was kind of strange. I was talking to people I hadn't seen for years, but then after a few minutes, it felt good to know that here in L.A. I had special people who would take good care of me. I had someone to talk to, someone who would listen to me and give me advice.

I couldn't wait to meet my new brother and sister, who I had never met because they were born in L.A. And I couldn't wait to see my younger brother, Armando, again; I hadn't seen him since he was a year old. Because it was nighttime when we arrived home, the children were sleeping, so I only got to watch them as they slept.

Armando, whom I hadn't seen for six years, looked tall and big. Would he like us? Would he ask about our family in Mexico? I couldn't sleep that night because I was trying to find answers to all of my questions.

The next day, Armando went to school before I woke up. I was anxious the whole day until 2 o'clock, finally came and my 8-year-old brother walked through the door. First, we stared at each other, and then we both smiled and laughed.

"Hola," he said.

"Hola. You're so big," I replied.

"I grew," he said, and we both laughed again.

"How do you like it here?" he asked me.

"I've just gotten here, but I think I'll like it."

He asked me: "Do you want to learn to speak English? I could help you learn it."

"Thank you," I said, "I would love to learn English, but I don't think I'll like it. I prefer my own language. When you first went to school here, did you like it? Was it difficult for you to learn English?"

"If I can learn to speak English, I'll bet you can learn easily."

He asked me about our life in Mexico. I told him that I missed our grandmother and our cousins.

"In Mexico, we sometimes played with our neighbors, but most of the time we played with our cousins," I said. "The thing I liked to do best was to play in the field on the other side of the river. We had to cross the maroma" -- a small bridge made out of tree trunks and string -- "and then we would run to the field. We would get scared when we saw the cows and the toros coming toward us. I thought it was funny when Esperanza got scared and ran, but I didn't move because I knew they would go the other way and not hurt us."

I was relieved to find my brother so friendly. I was also so glad to meet my 4-year-old sister, and I was surprised at how quickly she became attached to me. My other brother, Mario, was just a year old, and I knew the routine that I had in Mexico wasn't going to change here in L.A. -- I was going to take care of him the same way I took care of my little cousins in Mexico. I felt great happiness: My new life in L.A. was starting out so well.

I was scared at first at the thought of going to a new school, meeting new people and learning a new language, but I did my best to learn English, and I learned really quickly. So far in my life, most of my dreams have come true. I am now working on the one I think is the most important -- to become a nurse.

Initially, I came to Los Angeles just to be with my parents, but then I realized that this is a city of opportunities and a city where dreams can come true if you really work to accomplish them.

I knew when I came here that my new life was going to be hard, but I know that if I try my best, I'll open the door to the future waiting for me here in L.A.

*

About these essays

They were adapted from "Entering New Territory: Dreams for a New Los Angeles," a collection of writings by students at Theodore Roosevelt High School. The book was edited by Pilar Perez of 826LA, which works with students on creative writing skills

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