Every weekend I go back to Glencoe, to a house that has a back yard and stairs that I have to climb to get to my room. I can find an ipod in my bedroom, a computer, and even a camera that I bought myself. Some say, that what I am living is the American Dream.
I always find myself talking about something regarding my Mexican culture. I talk about it so much because I want to ignore the fact that I am not in Mexico. I am not a Mexican teenager. I am an American teenager.
Before my dad brought us to the United States he was working on the second floor to our house. I remember trying to climb the few steps he had in place going up to what would be that second floor. I remember him telling me to not go up there because I could get hurt. I just couldn’t wait to go up there and play.
Then, we came to the United States of America. The Promised Land where the American Dream was promised to everyone within reach as long as you were willing to hand over your culture and your language. You had to be one of them, the Americans. Change who you are, and become American.
Our new home in the U.S. was available to us by the greenhouse where my mom and dad would work. That house was actually nothing more than a shack. It was a single room with one closet, one oven, and two mattresses. We kept our few articles of clothing in boxes underneath those mattresses. The bathroom? The bathroom was outside, separate from our house. We shared the communal bathroom that all the workers used during the day. We all shared one bathroom stall, one shower, and two sinks.
We later moved into a little green trailer that provided more space for us. My younger sister was born, and soon after my older sister started high school. She brought home homework that I wished I could do. She brought home friends that I wished I had. She listened to Nsync, Britney Spears, and the Backstreet Boys. We were soon both singing along to their songs. We had without a doubt become mesmerized by these American pop stars.
After we started to speak English, we kept growing up alongside a culture that promised us Barbies and boys on television. It even promised me a perfect prom and being popular in high school. After years of being exposed to all of this; we had become American.
My parents soon started to talk about moving to a town called Glencoe. I went house hunting with my parents and I fell in love with one that had stairs. Two of them. One that went down to a black hole called a basement, and another to a second floor.
After living in that house for a few years we moved to another house in Glencoe. My sister was out of college, and I was starting my high school years in this new house. My cousins call this new neighborhood that we live in the “white rich” part of town. I laugh because we are not rich and every part of town is the “White” part of town.
Sometimes, I’ll watch Mexican soap operas with my sisters and I’ll look at the teenagers in them. I envy the fact that they are a part of a culture that I am separated from. They can write and speak really well in a language that is supposedly also mine . But I, I write well in English and when I pick up a book, it is in English.
Back in Mexico, our house is still unfinished. Up those unfinished stairs, I can find only a brick wall. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if my dad had finished that second floor and we would have stayed in Mexico. I probably wouldn’t have an ipod or my DSLR camera, but I would have experienced my birth culture. I would be writing and reading Spanish in school and I would be speaking Spanish every day.
Then I think of my parents. In their childhood, they had nothing. My mom’s mother died when she was three months old. When she was growing up, she could only count on a piece of bread and water each night. She relied on my aunt and called her “mom” until the day she was forced to stop when my aunt got married. They youngest of eight, my mother was forced to grow up with no mother.
My dad was the oldest of six, all boys. He grew up eating beans every day and taking care of farm animals. He owned two pairs of jeans that had patches all over them from excessive use. The only “candy” he had as a child were the crumbs that his uncle gave him and his brothers after a week of selling sugared bread. My dad’s bed was just a sack that he laid on the floor. A sack that could have held potatoes or corn before it became his “bed”.
My parents, both Vega’s, got married at the ages of 15 and 17. That was still too young for even their parents and the time. After their marriage, all they did was work and they are still working.
I am thankful for what they have done. They raised me and my two sisters in this country so we could have the opportunity to go to college. They raised us here so that we could have what they didn’t. But WE had to trade our culture in for the privilege of living here. I am still thankful, but the cost of it all seems so big. Their whole lives, my parents have worked and worked because they didn’t have money to go to college or the privilege to even finish high school.
I think that if I could trade in my camera, and the ipod I never use to go back to Mexico right now, I wouldn’t. Soon I will have to work. I want to give back to my parents. I can call their lives fate but I can’t say their lives have been fair. After I graduate from college, it will be their turn to enjoy what they didn’t have and what they have given to me and my sisters for all these years.
I will never go back to that house in Mexico with an unfinished flight of stairs. I will never be a teenager in Mexico and I will always keep wondering how my life would have been if my dad would have finished those stairs. I still wonder about how my life would have been if I had stayed in Mexico.