Twentieth Anniversary

On December 22, 1990 I landed in San Francisco via Boston, leaving my native France almost 9 000 miles behind me.
I entered the USA with my eleven-month-Parisian-born daughter, pregnant with my second one, our visa, a couple of suitcases and a stroller.
I became that day an alien with preexisting conditions.
Twenty years later, as an anniversary symbol, I offered a collection of true stories to my husband and our four children.
The 250 pages tell of the journey of an immigrant whose knowledge of English was comme ci comme ça.
They tell of my funny and less funny mistakes, of my loneliness and my search for home. They also tell of my falling in love with a country I only knew through songs, movies, books and my parents’ own memories of the only Americans they ever met until my move to the US: the soldiers who liberated their occupied France when they were young kids.
I wrote the stories especially for my children so they would know that their mother was once very similar to the women we meet here in California, when they have freshly landed from South America, Korea, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, or any part of the world.
Like me twenty years ago, they tiptoe through a language that plays tricks on them, through a culture that is more foreign than the food.
Like me they hope to understand the rules and be part of the game.
Like me they fear to lose themselves and never be the same.
All of that, I want to tell them will sometimes break your heart and make you want to return to your homeland.
Twenty years later, although I am an American citizen, I am still discovering the American people. I suppose I’m not one of them yet. But the French manage to surprise me when I visit my native country. I suppose I’m not really one of them anymore. All that can be disturbing and uncomfortable.
But the beauty is that in the USA, someone at some point has been going through the same journey.
And somehow, I want to tell the newly arrived moms, it makes everything work out just fine.

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