In 1990, my aunt and uncle first immigrated to the United States. They brought nothing, but a suitcase and my aunt’s red umbrella. The yellow and blue flower petals of the umbrella reminded her of the small garden they so preciously built in Bangladesh. Their new destiny welcomed them by presenting a tiny, four room apartment with ten outsiders, and only two windows where the sun couldn’t hug them with it’s warmth. The idea of working outside with strangers frightened my aunt, but there weren’t any other choice. She started working as a plain old worker sweeping bathrooms in a pharmacy. “The site of the bathrooms were disgusting. I made only $3.25 per hour.” Everyday my aunt walked along a train track for 30 minutes to get to her job. “I used to carry my umbrella while I walked. Flowers along the track danced happily, and the sight brought me closer to the new world.” Luckily, things started to become easier when my aunt learned English from the radio. She felt like a queen in her small world when she got transferred as a cashier in the pharmacy for $7.50 per hour. And with her first check, she decided to reward herself with a tiny, torn out makeup bag. Everyday she made sure the bag was fed with a makeup item. When asked about the bag she simply responded with, “It was a way of patting myself on the back.” Today if you visit her house, the umbrella sits still by the door, the makeup bag is displayed on a shelf and the train track calls you to visit as each train passes.
– Sumaia Nasrin