In the classic 1988 movie, ‘Coming to America’, Eddie Murphy portrays Akeem, an African prince who is being pressured into a forced marriage by his parents. The only problem is the woman they have chosen for him only sees him for his royalty. Akeem, the candid son, finally convinces his parents to let him depart on a discreet mission to America, along with his servant. Akeem hopes to find a beautiful woman who will love him and accept him for who he really is and not see him for his royalty. All of us who come to America have our own unique stories. Although we may not have been royal as Akeem, the theme of love and happiness which he is ultimately searching for is central in most of our stories. Mine is no different.
Although I left Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, at the age of ten, there are many memories that play fresh in my mind. Most of these memories are warm including the countless number of “mothers”, because in Addis, you were disciplined by the mother of your friends if you did anything wrong. I would describe my life in Ethiopia as complete except for the seven years I spent without my father. I could recall countless times when my best friend and I, who lived across the street, played all types of games up until his father came home from work. My best friend would then run towards his father, helping him with the bags of groceries he brought home. I would stare and wish to simply experience nothing more than that. There would be times when I would also leave my friends and run home, those were the times when I would hear someone from the house yell “your dad is on the phone.” I would run in the house and stare at his picture that was in the living room, while listening to his low voice. No matter what, I would always be at a loss for words, but those phone calls always energized me. I would then go back outside with a smile on my face and continue with my day wishing for the day we would once again reunite.
Even then I understood the reason why my father was not there with us. He was in America seeking nothing more but to improve our lives, and for seven long years I would not see him. Then finally, there was news that the paperwork was finalized and a date was set as to when we would actually leave to America. The days could not move any faster. I would spend days and nights playing the reunion in my head. Little time did I spend, if any, on whom I would miss. The love for my dad and the joy of the reunion was too overwhelming for me to even take time to ponder on who I would leave behind.
So the months turned into weeks, I was thrilled. The weeks into days, I was overjoyed. Days into hours, hours into minutes and I was baffled. Baffled because I couldn’t understand how the joy of my reunion was clouded by the thought of who I was going to leave behind. I questioned myself, how come I did not think of this moment before? In about a few hours I was about to leave everything I knew as a child. I was sure to miss the people, the neighborhood, everything and anything that made me who I was. As my cousins asked me questions like “will you miss us?” as we were getting ready to head to the airport, the moment started to sink in. I was giving answers like “we will see each other soon” while fighting back tears. When the door opened and the entire neighborhood was outside that night, I could no longer hold back the tears.
This is my story of Coming to America, what is yours?
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