Wednesday, March 2, 2011

From the Philippines to Dayton

I received the scarf from Rebecca on Monday, and had a really nice conversation with her. She shared with me how she’s lived in very different places since she graduated from high school. From college in Cincinnati to graduate work in Kansas, and now to Dayton for her job, and how she’s open to the possibilities of living anywhere in the country, depending upon the path her career takes her. I shared with her that I’ve lived in Columbus, Ohio pretty much my whole life, and even now, after spending a couple of years living in Dayton, I’m back in Columbus, in the same house I grew up in. We talked about the excitement (and for me, a little bit of the anxiety) that surrounds moving to new places. That conversation really stuck in my head when I got back to my desk, with the scarf draped proudly around my neck.

I spend most of my work time at my desk, so I have decorated my office space with lots of things that I like to look at, from art to photos of family and friends. I found myself looking at my favorite picture of my grandmother and I, feeling like the scarf had something to say about her as well, even though she lives hundreds of miles away.

The scarf reminded me that my grandmother was a weaver in the Philippines many, many years ago. Last year I spent some time with her, interviewing her in an attempt to create a kind of oral history about my family. I wanted to better understand the journeys my parents and grandparents made to get here to America, and try to understand how they were shaped by their journeys. When my parents got married, they left the Philippines behind to come here and pursue the American dream—find a good job, have a nice home, and raise their children in the best environment they possibly could. My mother’s parents quickly followed behind, so they could be closer to their own children and grandchildren. But coming here meant they had to leave everything behind—including my grandmother’s giant loom that she used to weave blankets that she would sell to bring in a little bit of money into their household. I can’t even begin to imagine the mix of emotions she felt when she first stepped off the plane in New York, knowing she would never live in the Philippines again. Her life here has been completely different, and she has spent most of her time here helping raise each of her grandchildren. Her own children (my mother and her four brothers) have all come to the States and made new lives for themselves, and have done really well.

But grandma still calls the Philippines home, even after being here for over 30 years. She’s an amazing woman, full of courage and strength that she passed on to my mother. These two women have been my heroines since I was a child, and having the scarf reminded me of how fortunate I have been to have women like them in my life, and how fortunate I continue to be, meeting new remarkable women like Rebecca, and Maria, who I passed the scarf to today. For me, the scarf with all its brightly colored woven thread represents the idea of a journey beautifully. Overcoming your fears, moving forward with strength and courage, knowing that you are connected to amazing women wherever you may go.

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