Unfortunately, my siblings and I cannot say that we were treated fairly in school during the 10 years we were educated in Haiti. We were the butt of jokes because of the way we had no parents an therefore no family to watch after us. Even though our surrogate family protected us, they could not protect our emotions from the truth. We were throw away children whose parents had practically forgotten us. So when our classmates teased us as “nobody’s children”, they were, in our feelings, speaking the truth. I guess this is why I grew up emotionally detached from both my parents.
I hated them for abandoning us all those years because our existence was an inconvenience for them. Sure divorce is a hard adjustment for any child, but we needed our parents most during that time. Instead, they chose the easy way out and pretended we did not exist. Any love that I had in my heart that was meant for my parents, I made sure to direct towards the people who did care for me enough to make me a part of their lives, my aunt and uncle. As siblings, we decided that we had to make good with the opportunities dealt to us. If our parents chose to forget about us, we would forget about them too.
We were civil when we had to speak to them, but we no longer demanded that our mother take us home with her like we used to when we were little and she would come visit us once a year in Haiti. To us, they were simply the people who paid our bills, gave an allowance, and sent us birthday and holiday presents once a year. Nothing more. We did not really know them and were not inclined to get to know them either. After ten years, I believe that my mother had a severe attack of the conscience and she decided that it was time for us to come back home.
You can imagine how afraid my siblings and I were to leave the only place we called home and leave the people who were our friends. We now had a life, were happy, and well adjusted to what we thought would be our permanent situation. Only to be told ten years later, in 1983 to be exact, that mom was now ready to “deal” with having kids and we were welcome to come home. That decision only served to further distance my feelings from my parents. We were not pawns in a game of chess. We were human beings who deserved to live a happy and memorable life.
But our parents were treating us like pawns instead. I tried to explain to mom that we were quite happy in Haiti and saw no need to come back to New York. We tried to bargain with her. We would come visit her and dad in New York during the summer and come back to Haiti for schooling because, our life was now in Haiti and we were not willing to uproot ourselves just because of a parental whim. It took the intervention of the two people whose parental authority we did recognize to convince us to give our parents a second chance by going to New York.
My aunt reminded me that my mother will always be my mother no matter what I do or say. She will always forgive and love me because that is what mothers do. As such, she felt that it was only fair that mom be given a second chance. Also, Haiti was becoming a dangerous place to live in and she explained how she would feel safer knowing that we were in a chaos free country with the people who gave us life. So, it was with a heavy heart that we packed our bags and flew back to New York in 1983.
It was much harder for us to adjust to life in the United States than it was to settle down and get used to Haiti. Maybe because we were much younger then, wee managed to adapt more easily to the new language and surroundings. Arriving in New York back in 1983 was a culture shock that I will never forget. Landing at the airport and seeing the hustle and bustle of the people around us was scary. I felt like a fish out of water and wanted to turn on my heels and take the first plane back to Haiti. Mom and dad were there at the airport to welcome us though so we tried to make the best of it.
My sisters, who were still too young to remember how we were abandoned by our parents in Haiti were ecstatic to finally be with our parents once again. Like a happy family. Divorced, shared custody, happy family that is. I felt a twinge of sadness though as I remembered how much we needed this kind of bonding with them while we were growing up. It was too late for us to bond now because we were already strangers who knew very little about each other. We were also too old for them to have any actual influence on our personalities as well.
Whoever I was to them, whatever they saw of me or my siblings, we were because of the love and care of their relatives. Not because our parents had a hand in our upbringing. The toughest part of coming back to America was that because we were raised in a French speaking house hold for 10 years, we had completely forgotten how to converse in English. Even our parents spoke in French when on the phone with us because it was a lot easier for us to speak that language than English. I guess it did not occur to them that they would be asking us to return to the U. S. in the future and decided to let the language thing slip by.
Needless to say, not being able to speak in English hurt my siblings and I during our adjustment period. We had to deal with the shock of dealing with what was now an alien culture and language at the same time. The kids at school were not nice to us at all because of it and it made us feel hugely inferior and insecure about ourselves. Our parents tried their best to help us adjust but it was simply hard for me especially, to trust that they were actually there for me and would not be shipping me off to God knows where the minute I or my siblings became an inconvenience to them again.
We are still working on the trust issue to this very day. Maybe it is because they were not around during the time we should have been forming that unbreakable parental bond that we are alienated from each other. Although we are all trying very hard to create a family, there are still times when we act like strangers around each other. Not really knowing how to treat one another, and not really trusting one another the way parents and children should. Our relationship has managed to evolve over time.
These days, we are comfortable enough to spend time with our parents either individually or together when possible, and talk to them as our equals. I am dong my best to open up and let mom and dad into my life. There is an all around effort on everybody’s part to make this dysfunctional family work simply because, no matter what happens, no matter how detached we are from each other and lack the parental bond between parent and child, all we have in life are each other. I know that with effort, we will slowly build that parental bond and love that our family so lacks.