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25 Years in the USA II

25 Years in the USA II

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a mini series about the 25th anniversary of arrival to the USA.

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – The early years in the USA consisted of me packing up my luggage and kids and wanting to go back home to former Czechoslovakia. Once it got so far that my dad Vaclav said he was going to buy me airplane  tickets.

I unpacked and my mom Ella with a German neighbor friend Mrs. Gunnell brought over a fortune teller.

“You got yourself in a mess,” she said. “You don’t know where you want to be.”

arrival anniversary
25 years in the USA

I was torn between the old and the new. The new didn’t seem so great. I remember dad teaching me how to drive on a short stretch of a freeway between Big Rapids and Reed City. Both “holes” terrified me with their nothingness.

“You came unprepared,” he said.

When I think about it today, he was right, like most fathers are. I was unprepared. I didn’t have a driver’s license or a license to practice civil engineering in America, or a desire to do so.

All I could do was listen to the band “Chicago” and cry.

Everything took a turning point when my husband Ludek found a job in Grand Rapids and we could move to an apartment in Kentwood. I took writing classes at the Grand Rapids Community College.

But in the meantime I worked as a clerk in women’s department at a Midwest  chain Meijer. Most people have. That’s where I started the store’s newsletter X-Files with a friend. We wrote it on a box from bras. Since Twitter or Facebook were not around, we wrote messages to each other on that same box until finally someone threw it out.

I also wrote for a Czech newspaper former “Czechoslovak Newsweek” that later changed names to ” American  Lists.”That was  the first time I got into trouble for writing. The article had something to do with religion. Ever since then, I follow the two major pillars of journalism; if you don’t want to get into trouble don’t write about religion or politics.

The kids were doing well in the public schools. Jake went to Challenger elementary and Emma to Kentwood High.

But, then something else transpired. Family members back home started dying. That meant flying to funerals painful flights.

When you emigrate, you don’t think about these things. You are never completely separated from your past, and never fully integrated into the present. You lose old friends, and don’t find new ones.

Gabrielle Garcia Marquez wrote in his “100 Years of Solitude:”

“You’re not home in a new place until someone close dies there.”

To be continued……

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