“Ma, I remember when we use to stand at the bus stations in Brooklyn (New York) in that scorching heat or the freezing cold waiting for a bus, and when it arrived it couldn’t hold any more people, so then we had to wait until another arrived. Sometimes there was standing room only, and you might fit if you could push yourself past people as you stepped onto the bus and stand kinda balancing yourself in the aisle, and we would fall if it weren’t for the other bodies holding us up.”
We were reminiscing this way as we saw someone on the sidewalk waiting for a bus in the scorching 100 degree weather we were having here in our city today, and I felt for her as we drove past in our airconditioned vehicle. I remembered using public transportation all of our years we spent in New York City, and that was for more than 15 years during our elementary, junior high, high, and college years.
“And often the buses had no a/c, remember Ma? How about when we took the train? Also, elbow to elbow, no a/c, and in the older trains we could open the windows but that just brought more heat and fumes inside the cars. Those were some rough years huh Mom?” I looked over at her and saw a glimmer of memory of those times in her eyes as she nodded in agreement.
“And Ma you use to fast the whole month of Ramadan while working in the heat of the hotel laundromat, standing all shift, then you walked several Manhattan blocks in the hot sun, then got on those hot, hot trains. Ma, I never knew how you did it, because you had nothing to eat or drink until you broke fast at night, hmmmm!” She nodded in agreement.
And I remember, when we got dressed up in our nice clothes to attend a wedding or to attend some other event, and, we didn’t have a family car, so again we walked in high heels to the train, down those stairs, through turnstiles and rushed to catch the train, often having to stand again until our destination. Boy those were some times, thinking then and now about our relatives or friends who had cars that at least took them to fancy events.
“Ma do you know Robby told me recently that Pappy’s dream car was a Mercedes?” I never knew that about my Dad! My father worked as a taxi driver while we lived in Trinidad but he never owned any of the cars he drove, nor ever (very sad face.) Btw, my father had been trained as a Taylor while he was growing up (more to share about that in a future blog)
I also recalled living in Hawaii around 2001 and I would walk to the bus stop, sit on the bench on the sidewalk, and wait for the bus that would take me to my job, in the heat of the day. One day, I noticed a coworker coming in to work wearing flip flops on her feet and changing into work shoes when she got to work; so, I decided to try that, which helped a little, not to mention made me feel like an island girl!
The one good thing about taking public transportation for so many years, is that it gave me a chance to think about ‘stuff’ and to people watch, and there was always a lot to see.
Throughout the years, I was finally able to purchase a car(s) and always held a deep sense of appreciation for it/them. My first car in Florida was a Pontiac Grand Am followed by a Ford Explorer. In Virginia, I purchased an Acura MDX, then another. Incidentally, whenever I set a goal to purchase something big, I drastically cut back on anything I consider superfluous in my daily life, such as eating out, manis and pedis, haircuts, coloring my hair, and so on. (Btw, presently I am aspiring for something that I consider ‘big.’) For my next car, I was aspiring for the beautiful house I currently live in, so, I had decided to downsize my next car to a Hyundai Elantra, which it turns out I loved a lot.
When I was in the market again for an automobile, I felt impatient and did not intend to spend a lot of time looking for a car. At the end of my second day of looking, I settled on a Nissan Rogue, and planned to return the next day to complete the purchase. The next morning, I received a call from a dear friend saying I had to come and take a look at a Mercedes that was “perfect for you.”
I went along, a little skeptical, as I’ve never cared for Mercedes vehicles, thinking firstly they were beyond my reach, secondly they looked ‘bougie’ which I saw as a negative, and thirdly I didn’t see the big deal about them.
On my next day to work, as I drove in, I felt uncomfortable driving my car. As I drove the short drive to work, I felt awkward, like I didn’t belong in my car. I saw a few people look my way and I didn’t like the attention. My car was shiny and had sort of a retro look, small-bodied, but spacious inside, and the wood grained paneling on the inside was what attracted me when I entered it the first time.
As my coworker, Ms. Barb, and I finished our shift that night, we walked out to the parking lot together, as was our usual practice. Looking around, she asked where was my car as she could not locate it in its usual spots. I pointed to the SUV nearby and shyly awaited her reaction. Shocked, she exclaimed, “Is that yours? Is that a Mercedes?” I quietly and nervously replied, “Yesss!!
We both became like young girls showing off our new dolls; excited and nervous at the same time, I happily gave her a tour, we both started opening the doors, I showed her how the trunk opened and how I didn’t need to press open door on the key fob, and we both admired this incredible machine!! I saw genuine happiness for me from my friend and coworker over one of the symbols of success I had been given. I even admitted to her that I have felt like I don’t belong in it. I confessed to her that I keep thinking that some little, old, White man will knock on my car door and say, “excuse me miss, but we need our car back now.”
It took several days before I felt comfortable in my new car and could drive it like it was indeed mine. When I would drive it, I felt the weight of all that my family and I didn’t have for so many years!! Eventually, I would get behind the wheels and felt comfortable, and that I deserved to drive a Benz.
And more than a year later, I get such fulfillment watching my Mom in the passenger seat, as I drive her about town doing ‘things.’ I feel such pride being able to do that for my Mom (wished my Papa was here to drive it too.) And I always remember the years we never had a vehicle or the years we had to take the bus or the train, but mostly in the extreme temperatures. I also remember the years our family shared one bedroom apartments and today through our hard work we get to live in houses!! I am perpetually in a state of appreciation and thankfulness.
Today, watching the woman waiting for a bus on the sidewalk, I felt a deep compassion as I recall from whence we came. And always so appreciative of every blessing we’ve been given, never once taking for granted any of it, even as I continue to toil in my chosen profession of caring for the sick, and often asking Him to give me a profession that is easier.
Recently, I told a woman acquaintance, a little of my past, and some of the blessings the Almighty God has given me, stating, “I’m not bragging, because this is all from the Almighty!” And she quickly replied, “No, brag, it’s okay!!”
More to come…