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My mother never went to college. That doesn't mean she isn't smart or cultured, though. She has favorite novels (100 Years of Solitude), poets (Neruda), and she can talk about most subjects with more clarity than a lot of kids I went to school with. She herself just never had the opportunity to go.
She was born and had a life in (removed). At 16, she emancipated from her mother and moved from a town in the mountains where children (work outside) to instead live in the capital. She imagined that it afforded her more than her hometown. And it did. Though she had my older brother when she was young, she was able to support herself with a good federal job. But she left that relative security to emigrate to the United States. It was for the usual reasons; she wanted my brother to go to college, to have more opportunities and mobility than she had. And, to be honest, I think she imagined a better life for herself too. I get the impression that she felt like (Removed) was a pond she outgrew. But the main point is that she had hopes for a better future in the United States. There were struggles in the move. My brother couldn't come over immediately and my mother had to find a way to learn English and settle down, but she managed. She met dad and had me. But they divorced when I was young and I largely grew up with my mother. To say that she gave up her life to nurture a hope in mine would be an understatement.
I could talk about growing up and my mother eating rice and beans so I could have vegetables and meat. I could talk about food stamps and fights over child support, about bed bugs and shame, anxiety and embarrassment. I could talk about her being tough, how she never really complained. And I could even talk about how weird I felt compared to my friends because I knew that we did things differently. But I don't think any of that is necessarily unique. What I want to talk about, what really stuck through with me, were the times when my mother would get sick. I knew other kids, I knew that their parents could go to the doctor or the hospital. I knew my father could do that. And his new wife, she could do that. I could too since his insurance covered me. But my mother was left out. She couldn't. For her, the doctor or the hospital, that would cost money. And we didn't have it.
I can remember the sound of her heaving, of her crying at night, scared that she was having a heart attack. I can remember her cutting her hand, the blood flowing out onto the cutting board and knowing that she would need stitches but hearing her say that she'd be alright. I can remember any number of these events, the details, how they'd end with her instructing me not to call 911, and how I knew it was because of the bills, but I'd rather talk about her face.
I think of the color drained from her face, that look of terror tinged with shame. I don't think any child ought to see their mother scared or helpless. It's an arresting thought because for all that she did for me, I could do nothing for her. In her moments of weakness, all I could do was console her. I'd hold her or hug her and I'd lay in her bed harboring the thought of dialing 911. But I would never do it. The next morning, I would go to school worried. And when I'd come home, when I'd get off the bus, she was always back at work. She would get better, yes, but the immediate and palpable fear that she exuded marked me. And it was something I carried alone. None of my friends had to face that and sharing it would have been too revealing.
This is me. I know I'm supposed to expound upon how I can contribute to a more diverse and unique student body, but I think a lot of that speaks for itself. Also, I just don't feel comfortable talking about myself like a welfare-case when I grew up in the suburbs but know people who grew up in section-8 housing or worse. But nevertheless, this is me. And sometimes, once in a while, I can believe it's uniquely American. I think about my mother on an airplane, landing in New Jersey, knowing no one. And then she's coming (to where we live). And soon, my brother joins her; it's the two of them together again. Eventually, she meets my father. They get pregnant. Her stomach grows and I'm born. There's walking, talking. There are bicycles and birthdays, report cards and graduations. And in (Removed), in the town where she grew up, where the same bridges and houses remain, people are still out (working), dreaming of the (capital). And in the city, there are people dreaming of the United States. And I am the result of that dream. I am the hope my mother harbored.
I need some serious help editing this and making it flow better.