TRAGEDY AND HOPE IN A FLIGHT
Now I smile when I look at my garden through my kitchen window. There are beautiful flowers, perfumes, colorful birds and the summer song of the wind that seems to say “don’t worry any more” From here I can see my children talking and laughing while they walk down the path coming home from school; the three of them healthy, happy youngsters. My husband has also arrived from the office and is parking his car in the garage. These little daily things may seem quite normal and unimportant to anybody except to myself, because years ago our lives were shattered. All of our possessions were the clothes we had on.
I remember that there came a time in which everybody in my country realized that with the communists in power there was no future in it for those who did not agree with their form of government, and people considered rich, first, then the middle class and finally the peasants of our homeland joined the endless list of those asking for permission to leave it.
When it happened to me it was such a when I walked away from my lovely home by the sea, with my husband and three children. Our car left for the airport in the middle of a heart-breaking sunny morning. The experience was unbearable. I looked back in despair and I saw, for the last time in my life, our house and the almond trees and rose bushes that surrounded it getting smaller every second until it looked to me in the distance like a blue jewel box; and it really was one at that moment. What else but a jewel box could contain all those beloved things that we usually collect through our lives like pictures, souvenirs, books, toys, little nothings that the children used to do in school for Mothers’ days and Fathers’ days… Some of them very funny little things indeed, but it still hurts to remember that we were not allowed to take any with us.
Even now I remember how I felt when we went inside the plane that was taking us away: It was like being uprooted. The whole world seemed to be shaking under my feet and the view of our relatives, friends, and faithful servants saying goodbye to us disappeared, as all I could think of was the feeling of emptiness that minutes later gave way to an agonizing anxiety about my family’s future. My husband who worked so hard to become a successful professional had to start all over again. My children, poor little babies then, seemed to be unaware of what was going on, ignoring that they would never see again their beds, their toys, their pets, not even suspecting that if we were lucky, all we could do was try to put them to bed on a couch somewhere…
Lost among my thoughts, like a sparrow in a storm, trying with all my heart to get a hold of any little branch of hope, it occurred to me that there is always some good derived from all sufferings. Perhaps! …perhaps the future still had some pleasant surprises that I could not imagine then… I remembered the words of St. Matthew “: Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your father’s leave…thus do not be afraid, you are of more value than many sparrows…” And there were five of us.
The hours passed, we had a long trip ahead. I recall the blonde heads of my children, sleeping almost all the time, on their pillows. My husband sipping a drink that the pilot, who happened to know us, kindly told the stewardess to give him, as he knew very well that he needed it and could not even afford it then.
I found the courage to look straight into our past, the life we had just left behind…I started questioning myself about its peculiarities at that crucial moment of my life. I had plenty of time to analyze it all. It went like this: a nice home, a way of life, good schools, money, a social set, charitable work, peace of mind, security.
Of course, we had everything. In fact, we had too much of everything. My husband was so wonderful, and such a hard worker, that we seldom had those nice relaxing moments that every married couple should have, chatting about insignificant things, lovingly bored perhaps. Everything we talked about had to be important, it better be, otherwise we would not even take time to mention it. Our weekends were always spent at the club, with friends and social contacts which we certainly loved and enjoyed to be with…besides, it was all very convenient to my husband’s professional career. We seldom did anything different, but who could ask for more, anyway? We had such nice surroundings: the house, the Club, the Sea… that we never needed to go anywhere for vacations. That meant of course that we never took a vacation. I had help in the house and my maids loved me, of course. They knew that I was always at home, ready to take over or help, because I was in my rooms nearby, often doing office work for my husband. However, since a woman is always more of a mother than a secretary, no matter how much help she has or pays for, I spent my days running back and forth from the kids to the typewriter and vice versa. To tell the truth, I loved every bit of my running and still remember those days with a sort of homesickness. But it is also true that I did not enjoy enough of my kids or my job. My husband and I always put our children first and I was always full time with them whenever it was necessary…yet wasn’t I most necessary than ever whenever there was nothing to do but enjoy their company and relax? The children were very happy themselves, perhaps too happy and unprepared for the struggle of life. They came home from their schools and their parties always to find mother and maids ready to please them even more. Whenever they wanted something all the effort asked of them was to say “please”. We didn’t consider ourselves “rich” but who cared, we had everything, even too much of everything. We used to make plans for the future, we were going to travel in the future. We saved money for the future, we were young and contented ourselves just looking forward to the future, but we never dared to be crazy enough to forget about the future and start doing foolish things in the present that we might have wanted to do. Besides there was hardly ever time to do what we wanted to do but only for what had to be done.
A voice was heard in the plane, the time of our landing was announced on the microphone. I looked at my husband, he was sound asleep. I remember what he had told me as he was waking up from one of his naps and took my hand as we were seated in the plane: “ I feel very calm because I know we are doing the right thing..“ He was always that way and I am very proud of him. And I felt terrible about the hard times awaiting him. He had to start all over again, there would be more effort and sacrifices ahead.
Still, I thought, it could also be that this new life that was beginning at the end of our flight would be a nice one too. We were used to the challenge of working hard for what we had, we loved that kind of fight. Perhaps through the most unusual of circumstances I was going to fill those blank spaces of my past life. We had to start at zero but after all the sky was out limit.
Of course, I could not guess that all this was meant to happen when we landed on US territory. Then I only wanted to kneel and thank the Lord for the hopeful years ahead, as hopeful religion was also a casualty of the Revolution. Everyone at the airport in New York seemed to understand our situation and was kind and helpful. Nevertheless, we asked ourselves “what are we going to do now?” Did our relatives know that we were coming as we announced it to them in our letters? Would there be anyone there to take us some place and give food to the children? Would we have to stay at the airport all night, waiting? Could we ask somebody to give us money to make a phone call? …Suddenly we looked up and saw three wonderful people whom we knew and were there to meet us and provide whatever was necessary at that difficult moment.
“Of course, we were more than sparrows”
Carmela VG Rodríguez