We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofAleisha Thomas

I was born and raised in Jamaica, a beautiful island in the Caribbean, until the age of 11. I had a good life. Two loving parents, a three bedroom home, and a car. On weekdays my mom made me breakfast every morning, scrambled egg, mac and cheese, or porridge.  My dad drove me to school with my mom in the backseat and I would nap on her lap. After school, I would help my mom make dinner, stewed chicken or sometimes fried dumplings with ackee. She would ask me how my day at school was and what I did. Sometimes my dad would bring me to work with him, and let me drive in the passenger seat, as he drove his Taxi. Me, my mom, and dad would sit together around the kitchen table, or in the living room, or any room. There was a lot of laughter in my house.

On weekends we would often visit my mother’s family who lived up the street.  With my cousins we played almost every or any game you could think of. We would spend hours at their house. Sundays were for ice cream and family time, since it was my dad's only day off.

Then, near the end of fifth grade my parents told me I was leaving. But they didn’t mean all of us, just me and my dad. I was nervous and excited, but also sad. Nervous because it was my first time on a plane, something I had been looking forward to ever since I decided I wanted to become a pilot. Excited because it was my first time traveling outside of Jamaica. But the thought of leaving my mom behind made me sad. I had never been anywhere without my mom before and I didn't want to leave her behind, but I didn't have much of a choice. 

My mom, aunt and cousins all came to send us off. My dad and I boarded the plane. I laid my head on my father's lap and slept until it was almost time to land. I woke up and stared out at the stars, building lights and the tiny islands we soared over.

I remember arriving in Queens, New York. I remember coming out of the airport. It felt like a new adventure, but soon after I landed I realized the United States wasn’t really what I expected. 

I started living with my grandfather. My dad now worked more so I spent less time with him and more time with my aunt, uncle and cousins. My mom would call me everyday, but because I didn’t like talking on the phone or sometimes I was hanging out with my family, I didn’t always answer. 

After some time of living in the United States, I realized my relationship with my parents wasn't the same. My dad and I didn't really spend as much time together anymore and we didn't do things we used to do like eat dinner together or play fight. He was always working and I was always with my aunt. I realized I didn't talk to mom a lot anymore and when we did half the time we were arguing. It was frustrating and I hated it. I realized I had lost the everyday adventures and talks with my parents. The places, and everyday activities we all did together had stopped. 

One day I was sad and started hysterically crying to the point where I didn’t know what to do. I called my mom crying and venting, she stayed on the phone with me until I calmed down and made sure I was okay. I realized in that moment how much I needed and missed my parents. 

My mom and I now talk almost everyday about deep life conversations or sometimes just to check in to make sure everything is okay. My dad and I still don't spend as much time together as we did when I was little, but we have more deep conversations now. My relationship with my parents isn't the same as it was in Jamaica, but I'm so happy we have each other.

© Aleisha Thomas. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.