Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Day Like No Other

Roosters crowed. A dog barked. A car horn honked in the distance. A thick, white blanket of fog hugged the town. Everyone was asleep. Well, except for the six bright-eyed, anxious, excited yet nervous children—four boys and two girls. Today promised to be a day like no other. Hurriedly, they jumped in their Sunday best, washed down an egg sandwich with some hot cocoa that their step-father had fixed. A white taxi pulled up. They piled in and gave the cabby instructions to go to Kingston International Airport. They were on their way to the United States of America. And mamma would be waiting with open arms.
Their stomachs somersaulted as they climbed the metal steps into the belly of the big, brightly painted blue, red and yellow metal bird with Air Jamaica neatly printed along its side. The soft, multi-colored seats enveloped them.
            “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome on board the love bird: Air Jamaica.” The deep, accented voice of the pilot boomed throughout the aircraft. Ding. The fasten seat belts light flashed. The children fiddled with their seatbelts until they heard the click. The engine roared. The bird strutted then raced down the runway. Suddenly, an unknown force pinned them against their seats. Up, up, up and away! They were airborne. The lush mountainside waived good bye as the fluffy clouds welcomed them. The blue sky smiled. The children grinned from ear to ear.
            After what seemed like forever, the plane descended, bumped along the asphalt, then rolled to a stop near an enormous building that stretched for miles.
            “Welcome to Miami.” The hostess announced. The children freed themselves from the snug seatbelts, grabbed their simple duffle bags from the overhead bins and followed behind the rest of the passengers. Bienvenido. Bienvenue  Benvenuto. Their heads swam with the noise; the languages; the signs. Despite it being mid-April, they shuddered from the arctic air coming from the air conditioner. A fresh, unfamiliar scent filled the air. Could it be the newness of America? Or, was it the scent of brand-new opportunities? Whatever it was, it was exhilarating!
            They joined the visitors’ line. The oldest teen handed over the passports to a soldier-like immigration officer who was impeccably dressed in crisp white shirt, black pants and black patent shoes. He studied the documents, handed them back and pointed to an adjacent room. Timidly, the children marched in. They were ushered to the green plastic chairs. After fifteen minutes, a stocky female officer with a tight pony-tail approached them. The children stiffened involuntarily. She gave them a warm, wide smile. They relaxed. She took the passports and the sealed manila envelope with the medical records.  
            “Who’s picking you up?” she asked no one in particular.
            “Mama,” the youngest sibling chirped.
Finally, she stamped each passport, handed them back said, “Welcome to America!”
            “Thank you,” they chorused.
            They followed the exit signs to ground transportation. It seemed like a convention was in progress. The crowd was thick. The honking horns and organized chaos was overwhelming. The children searched for one familiar face—a face they have not seen in four years—a face that meant the world to them.
            “Hey, my babies!” Mama ran towards them. The children screamed and ran into the arms of their mama. Yes, today was a day like no other.

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