Emma Gordon is your typical teenager. She is a freshman at R.J. Reynolds High School, she has plenty of friends who she keeps up with on social media, and she enjoys spending time with her family. For Emma, it is hard to imagine that her mom was about the same age as she is right now when she left everything she knew behind her and ventured into the unknown.
Lidia Gordon was seventeen when she left her family and friends in Brazil to start a new life in the United States. Up until that moment, Gordon had a perfectly normal and happy life: family vacations, weekly dinners with the extended family, and trips to the farm were some of her favorite things. However, Gordon wanted more. Two weeks before the Christmas of 1986, Gordon arrived in New York City by herself.
I only know a few people, so it was very stressful. Absolutely I was nervous.
As with many other immigrants, Gordon did not speak English, and, to make things worse, she didn't have the required paperwork to get a job.
“If you don't have the paperwork, you have to take any job, that's the hard part.”
She first became a babysitter, and, once she knew enough English, she got a new job at a local restaurant. For Gordon, the first couple of years in the United States were far from the American dream she came after. She would ride the 4:30am train to work every morning and she would go back home at around 9pm.
“Absolutely. Sometimes, I wanted to give up, but God and my father say, you stronger than that keep going.”
Gordon met her husband to be ten years after she had first arrived in the U.S., and, after they got married, they had Emma in 2001. Gordon's immigration story had a happy ending, and for Emma it has become more than just a story. It has become a reason to appreciate her typical teenager life.
“I don't have to wake up at 4:30 to go to work for minimum wage. I don't have to leave my family behind. My mom did all of that for me so I wouldn't have to…. And I don't think I'll ever be able to repay her or give her back the time she missed with her family. All I can do is to make sure that we build new traditions here in America and I can't wait to begin… “
And we can't wait to see what those traditions become.