The face of an Immigrant

immigrant /imigr(e)nt/noun
  1. 1.
    a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.
    “they found it difficult to expel illegal immigrants”
    synonyms: newcomer, settler, incomer, new arrival, migrant, emigrant; More

I was thinking the other day- I was the first born child to Portuguese immigrants and I am now an immigrant myself.  This led me to think about how I felt growing up a child of immigrants. I vividly remember sneaking out one afternoon and peeling the bumper sticker my parents had on their 1973 Buick Skylark- it embarrassed me. It said “Proud to be a Greenhorn” I can still feel the heat rise up my face when I saw it on the car.  Why would my parents want to announce to the world that they were immigrants! Wasn’t it better to be American!?!?  Don’t be different!  ASSIMILATE!
me wedding day
Why were they ALWAYS waving their Portuguese flag.
Quiet down! Assimilate! Don’t act Portugues!
Shh! I’ll do all the talking, you’ve got an accent!
I don’t like Portuguese food! Can we have meatloaf for dinner? Or Pot Roast? Or… 
Being a child of immigrants and a teenager is not a very nice combination. I’m sure I was a joy to live with.  I think back and I wonder how many times I hurt my parent’s feelings with my inconsiderate comments. Did they know I was ashamed to be Portuguese? Did they understand that I had this constant feeling burning inside me that I did not fit in? That I did not belong? That this is not my home? That it took me years and years before I felt comfortable with who I am. That it took having my own daughter. That it took spending an entire summer in the Azores surrounded by people who are me. Surrounded by people who I am. It’s a weird feeling- at least it was for me, to feel like you’re home in a place you’d only visited once before age 5.  But that’s how I felt that summer in my parent’s village- this is where I am from and I could FEEL it settle into my bones.
Here I am now an immigrant myself! How did the girl who so desperately wanted to belong end up here? As a stranger- again.  I often reflect on how I ended up here. If I think back to all the things that had to align to get me here- the mind boggles. In the end I think it’s that need to belong that got me here to where I belong.
So I’m raising my own child of immigrants- or rather one immigrant parent. Will Squidge feel like I did growing up? Will my difference make her feel ashamed? Will she ask me to assimilate? To say to-mah-to and not to-may-to? That it’s SHedule and not sKedule.  That I can not find aluminum foil here but I can find alluminium foil. Will these little differences make her feel like I felt? Will she too sneak out one afternoon and rip my Call me Ishmael bumper sticker off  my car?
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4 Comments

  1. Kelloggsville
    January 23, 2014 /

    I guess my husband must feel this way too. But all teenagers are embarrassed by their parents no matter who they are or where they come from. You could be covered in pit dust and wear cogs and still she’d be embarrassed….well yes she would, but you know what I mean!

  2. January 23, 2014 /

    It’s really interesting to hear what you’re saying about not wanting to be different as a teen. It’s interesting for me, because I felt the same way – and was born to English parents living in England. I wasn’t an immigrant but went to a school in a different part of town – my accent wasn’t pronounced enough, my house was on the wrong side of the city etc. I spent SO long trying to fit in with the other teens at my secondary school. In the end I just embraced the fact I didn’t have a really strong accent, but I remember it taking a good couple of years to feel that way. By the time I was 19 I wanted to be MORE different. Teens – you can never please them, eh?!
    Molly recently posted…Why do we put new mums on a probationary period?My Profile

  3. Becky
    January 23, 2014 /

    I think she will be more embarrassed by your curly yellow wig!!! An interesting post Lindy many teenagers find difference hard and some adore and celebrate it.

  4. January 31, 2014 /

    I think we all feel like this about our parents in a way when we are growing up. Comes with the territory, but must be more more pronounced when your parents are perhaps a little ‘more different’ than the average.
    Erica Price recently posted…The Third Week Of The YearMy Profile