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Friday, 25 May 2012

To Belong

By Lia Hirtz

The jacarandas are in full bloom. They spread their color plumage of violet-blue against the backdrop of a cobalt sky. Through the open window of the moving car, I see the blur of color brush my eyes. I am a girl of six, full of childish innocence and amazement.

My name is Rosalia. My face is sweet and placid. I have thick, dark brown hair that my mother braids with shiny colored ribbons. I am bright and chatty with a slight overbite and a large, red birthmark on the right side of my body.

There is no work for my father and in search of a better life, our family is moving to California. We are leaving behind our familiar town and happy home in Coalcoman, Mexico.

As we drive away, I see the slight silhouette of my beloved grandmother, sadly waving goodbye. The pain on her face is fierce, but she does not cry. I feel a lump in my throat, keenly aware of our separation. Quickly, I lose sight of her as we drive faster and faster towards our new home.

After what seems an eternity of driving, my mother turns and smiles at me, a wide, happy smile that makes me want to hug her. “We’re home,” my father says as we arrive in San Juan Capistrano, California.

Soon after our arrival, it is my first day of school. I have been crying for days in anticipation. I speak no English and I am mortified.

My mother dresses me in my best and I look nothing like the other girls in school. I am wearing a puffy, red dress, long braids with shiny, colored ribbons, and a red birthmark around my right eye, chin, neck, arm, hand, thigh, foot – “a gift from Jesus,” my mother says, but I feel like a piñata in the middle of an alien party.

In class, the teacher calls me Roxilia and I want to cry. Blue-eyed girls with soft yellow hair and sweet smiles lead me to a chair where they slowly dissect me. They undo my braids and remove the ribbons; they fuss with my dress and tenderly caress my birthmark while excitedly conversing.

They speak, but I cannot understand them. I can hear my heartbeat like a roaring ocean in my ears. My breath is caught in my chest as I understand, “this isn’t Coalcoman anymore, Rosalia.”

Time passes and every day I practice English. The sound of “th” and “tion” are especially difficult for me to pronounce. I intently study my classmates’ mouths when they speak. Their tongues twist and curl as the words easily dance on their lips like colored serpentines.

I am no longer frightened. I am home, here to discover, to learn, to speak, to communicate, so that I too, may belong.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What a simply beautiful story you tell pulling me in and allowing me to feel that I am right there by your side every step of the way.

Claire Jean said it all. I love your stories and your compelling writing style, Lia. More, more, please.

From your wonderful descriptions I became that little girl; scared, amazed by what she saw and yet with a strong purpose in mind. Keep writing so we can enjoy it all.

Well written story. The style reminds me of Lisa See.

Oh, a reminder of how it feels to be in a new place....and wanting so much to belong. Thank you for sharing.


What a wonderful story of your family coming to California and making the place better because you were there.

When I hear some people complain about immigrants coming here, I wonder what they are thinking and I wonder who THEY think made America the great Country that it is today.

I can feel them touching you and the words floating around you. How wonderfully written!

Thank you all for the wonderful comments on my writing. How lovely to be able to give a little of myself through these stories. Thank you for taking this piece.

I can't begin to express how deeply this has touched me, Lia! I'll just say that this is worthy of a standing ovation.

Thank you!!!!!

Thank you Kay!

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