Recently, I read a book called, The Distance Between Us, a heart wrenching and inspiring memoir by Reyna Grande about her childhood in Mexico and her teen years in Los Angeles, California. I couldn’t put her story down, and being a mother my heart broke for her and the children who were abandoned by their mothers and fathers, on and off throughout their lives, ping ponging back and forth from Mexico to the United States.
After reading her story, I understood another side of the immigrant experience, and the great suffering that took place when her parents left Reyna, her older sister and brother behind for ‘a better life’ in the United States. After reading about her life, I was a better person for it. I grew in wisdom and understanding while enduring her pain and sharing her hope. I watched as she, word for word wove a beautiful, colorful tapestry of her life onto the page.
Her story is one of poverty, childhood hardships, abandonment, shame and longing, but it is also about perseverance, stamina, hope and how the human spirit endures and even thrives in the face of adversity and in the name of justice.
From this memoir, I planted a seed in my Mother’s heart who is 82 years old. I asked if she would write her life story, one of immigration and hardship, leaving her mother, sister and brothers behind for a better life. Her parents were born in Italy, immigrated to Argentina and from there my parents moved to the United States in 1957.
Every day, she has been sending me e-mails about her life in which I am compiling together for her and the family. When she writes, I am taken to the days of her youth playing in the streets of Buenos Aires, to the smells of fresh basil in her mother’s kitchen, to the somber cloud her father’s dark moods stormed up whenever he came home acting like an oppressive king.
I understand her dreams, her troubles, her struggles, her precious Argentine traditions and her thoughts as a child then and mature woman today. From her writings, I can taste my mother’s Italian-Argentine recipes on my tongue that came from my abuela.
When I asked her to write her life down on paper, I knew the weaving of time, come and gone, would be cathartic for her, for me. And in fact, the writings have taken her on an emotional roller coaster ride where she asked her children, “What is the point of this again?”
We write to continue ourselves. We write to know we’re not alone. We write to forgive and forget, to inspire and feel whole once more.
When we share our most vulnerable moments in detail, it’s like opening a fine bottle of wine that has been corked for years but deserves and needs air to be appreciated and understood. Painful memories need to be released, losing their hold and power on us. Memories we cherish and hold dear are finally free to be tasted and savored, relishing every single drop that makes up our ‘one and only’ unique life.
I look at each of my life experiences as if they were a thread of color, interwoven together over the years to make a beautiful tapestry. The dark-colored threads, such as black, gray or brown symbolize moments of hardship, abandonment, pain, suffering, loss, death, betrayal, yet must exist in order for the bright-colored threads of our life, the gold, green, blue, yellow, red, purple and white to stand out, representing love, hope, wealth, warmth, healing, forgiveness and faith.
Our lives must include the full spectrum of color for us to weave a richly textured tapestry and offer a deep understanding of our lives.
I have been encouraging a number of my family and friends to write their life story. Their words will appear for others to see, like the colors of a rainbow on any beautiful God-given day.