June 29, 2007
My grandfather had his struggles here but never again went home. He’d cast his lot. That’s an important point in the immigrant experience, when you cast your lot, when you make your decision. It makes you let go of something. And it makes you hold on to something. The thing you hold on to is the new country. In succeeding generations of your family the holding on becomes a habit and then a patriotism, a love. You realize America is more than the place where the streets were paved with gold. It has history, meaning, tradition. Suddenly that’s what you treasure.
I called my father immediately after reading it and told him about it. The concept she notes in her piece, the idea of letting go of where you came from, and becoming an American through and through, is one that my father pushed for us since the day we came to America. He was so adamant that we be Americans, and Americans only, that to this day I have not been back to Russia (despite having been to so many other places in the world, from the Amazon river to the Asian part of Turkey and beyond). He wanted a clean cut with the past. He wanted to be American. This July, I’ll celebrate my 29th year in America and my father will celebrate his 30th. He tells me that he can’t wait for his 32nd anniversary, as that will mean he has spent more time in America, his adopted home that he loves so much, than he had in Russia. From the man who got himself a “Sweet 16″ cake on his 16th American year, I am looking forward to that celebration.