Excerpts on Miracles from my memoir Biting the Big Apple
By Marivir R. Montebon
Consider a random act of kindness, especially in an immigration office, a miracle.
My aunt, Susan Hinaut, was distraught on the day of her scheduled interview for her Green Card application on October 5, 2011. Her son, my cousin Voltaire died of lymphoma the day before. He was in his late 30s, a family man of two children, and had just finished the Nursing course with the plan to join my aunt and eventually bring his family in the US. Tita Susan had been away from Voltaire and his two other siblings for 10 years.
In his death bed, Voltaire mustered the strength to thank his mother for continually supporting him and his family. He cried and apologized for his misgivings as a son. A day after they talked on Skype, Voltaire passed on peacefully.
When my aunt approached the immigration officer and exchanged pleasantries, she told her that her son just passed away and was no longer really thinking much of the interview.
The officer offered her condolences to Tita Susan and remarked she must go home right away. “Children are supposed to bury their parents, not parents burying their children. I will issue your green card right away,” she said. That remark sent Susan dumbfounded and in tears. “I couldn’t believe it. I thanked her endlessly and I cried,” she said. She wasn’t interviewed any further.
No one really knows one’s fate when one enters into the immigration office to apply for permanent residency status. But Tita Susan is just one of those so lucky enough to be approved quickly.
I was surprised to see her and Nedo, my aunt’s legal counsel, standing before me while so busy text messaging just a few minutes after they got inside. They had big smiles. I asked what happened? I got approved, my aunt said, beaming. And we hugged each other and screamed! Nedo said that random act of kindness doesn’t happen all the time. That was a triumphant morning. We thought Voltaire’s spirit must have been there.
My aunt invoked immigration rule 204 and 213 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act which was signed by President Obama on October 28, 2009 which allows spouses and children of US citizens to self-petition upon the death of their petitioner.
My aunt’s ten-year wait for her permanent residency status, like everyone else had been long and painful. She arrived in the US in June 2001 and she applied for self-petition upon knowing about the new rule and was finally scheduled for interview in October, ironically a day after Voltaire died.
Her coming home to Larena was both joyous and sad for everyone. My aunt had gone through so much in life as a single mother, including having the strength to bury her own son she hasn’t been with for so long.
Some of my miracles happen in the kitchen.
I came to New York as a kitchen alien. I couldn’t cook, and that is just so bad. One cannot continue to act like a princess in a strange land like America. I realized that the way to make a living here, first and foremost, is not about getting a job in the newsroom. You must know how to keep house impeccably and cook. No, it hasn’t been that easy.
A few months before I was introduced to Nedo by Kristine, I was myself in a mad scramble for jobs, the easiest of which was to be a babysitter. I applied confidently to be a babysitter through an agency owned by the aunt of a high school friend.
My first job was unexpectedly horrible. I was required to cook and I didn’t know how! I was assigned to work in an incredibly gorgeous mansion in New Jersey, overlooking the Hudson River and facing the west part of Manhattan.
To my care were twin boys, aged 5, who ate nothing in the morning but pancakes sprinkled with Hershey’s chocolate.
The mother, a tall woman of Mediterranean descent, ushered me into her intimidating, spotless silver and black modern kitchen where I was to make pancakes. I was nervous. I said to myself, uh oh, I am going to starve these kids because I don’t know how to make pancakes!
I was hoping to see the box of the flour mix (where the instructions are printed) in the pantry. But no, there was no box. The flour was inside the jar and I had no idea how to mix them. I was going crazy, because what could be worse than losing my job the first day is to starve the kids. Panic time!
I called my mother in California very early that morning to ask her how to make pancakes. No answer. I called my aunt in Woodside. Thankfully, she woke up to answer my call.
Almost in disbelief and half asleep, she told me about the recipe. One is to one: one cup milk or water for one cup of flour. Yes, that was my first miracle in the kitchen.
I walked into the intimidating kitchen, this time confident that I can make Hershey sprinkled pancakes for the boys. Oh they were so lovable, eagerly staring at the flour and water being mixed and poured into the griddle.
Before the bus came, they scooped up the two pancakes they had on each plate. I felt relieved. I knew I wasn’t going to lose my job that day. But in my next cases of babysitting, I was clear in my job description that I do not cook.
Postscript: My aunt Susan has since flew to the Philippines twice to visit her grandchildren and two other children. She loves going home. And I can cook, a few years later. In the course of time, I learned Jewish and Filipino food. But I am not a pro, I cannot accept catering orders.
Get a copy now, go to http://justcliqit.com/biting-the-big-apple-buy-now/