Alien?

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“My brother is an alien,” she stated confidently in her sweet, three-year-old voice.  She was too young to know that once she had also been an alien.  The immigration officer smiled in a professionally controlled way.  Likely she had heard that joke a few times in her long career behind that desk.

There is no concern in our voices, no hesitation in presenting the official, stamped, sworn-to papers that will make our baby son an American citizen.  After all, we are white, privileged, financially stable, citizens by birth.  There is no question of our right to the time and attention of this bureaucrat, whose salary and benefits, after all, are paid by our tax money.  Our lives are comfortable, our extended clan vibrant with welcoming love for these two young children.  Children who were born to other parents somewhere else in the world, brown-skinned, with hair and eyes as black as night.

True, we suffered years of longing and waiting, tears and anger, attending baby showers with fake smiles on our faces, dredging up congratulations out of the shreds of our shattered hopes.  But now, we are parents, finally.  Not the way we had originally planned, not “blood of my blood,” no shared DNA, no possibility of “she looks just like you!” But parents, nonetheless.

Doubtless feelings of fear and inadequacy plague all new parents, its measure according to personality and ability, tradition and experience.  But add in this:  guilt.  Guilt because this is a world in which someone like me can travel thousands of miles to a foreign land, hand over thousands of dollars to an adoption agency and an attorney, spend weeks or months living in an apartment hotel and finally, at last, travel thousands of miles back home with the most adorable, wanted, loved, prayed for children in the entire universe.

And what of the mothers left behind?  We did not meet our daughter’s mother three years before, because at that time it was not always feasible.  But this time we did, in our lawyer’s office, depending on him to adequately translate the depth of our gratitude.  Our words and those of this lovely young mother were choked with tears.  We assured her that we would speak of her always in kindness; that we would be sure her son would know that she wanted him, desperately, but gave him to us “with her whole heart” because she knew the life she would live with him would be stark and painful; that he would be an alien in his own land and she wanted better for him.

Almost thirty years have passed since those meetings with our son’s mother and with the immigration officer.  But sadly, immigration and the cruel and untrue characterizations of immigrants from those who purport to represent the American people assault me on a daily basis.  I am forced to realize that my children could so easily have been “Dreamers.” That under a different set of circumstances, their mothers might well have brought them to this country or any other country illegally, because that is what parents do when the only other option is letting your child die of malnutrition, be kidnapped into a rebel army, or forced into prostitution.  And legal or not, I would say to them, Bravo, Welcome, Well Done.

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 2/1/18
Inspired by Daily Word Prompt: profuse