Today, June 2, 2020, is my 18th anniversary of becoming a Canadian immigrant.
My family celebrates this day every year...
Part of our tradition is to remember some of the fondest memories of the day that we became "landed immigrants" in Canada, our first few weeks and months in our new home...and reflecting how our life is so different, because we had the privilege of immigrating to Canada.
As you can probably guess, there are too many details to really capture everything in one post.
Today, my focus will be on reflecting how my family became adopted by a dutch-Canadian family, and the difference it made on our journey...
My hope is that perhaps this will inspire another Canadian family to do the same and change another family's life.
Here are some of the details I am remembering today...
I have memories of my parents packing all our stuff and selling as much as they could.
We came to Canada with 8 suitcases and a few boxes full of Honduran paintings that were meaningful to my parents.
I was too young to know how much my life was about to change...
I remember saying goodbye to a group of our family at the airport.
If you are hispanic, you probably can relate with the fact that it is not unusual for an entire family, tios and tias (aunts and uncles), cousins, and grandparents to drop you off at the airport and stay with you until the last possible minute....even if it is just a week-long trip.
I remember feeling excited and not understanding the tears of saying goodbye...it felt like the start of an adventure...
We travelled from Tegucigalpa to Miami.
We stayed in Miami overnight with my maternal grandparents. They were in Miami for medical reasons and I remember the emotional heaviness of that night.
There was sadness in knowing that we would not be able to see each other every day and every week again...the upcoming change started to feel real.
Up until that point, my brother and I would see my grandparents almost every day. The bus would drop us off at their house after school. We had a Sunday brunch tradition as well, so we saw them at least six times per week and they played an enormous role in our lives.
I have a lot of thoughts on growing up with grandparents a plane ride away and caring for them from afar as they aged...but I will save those for another time.
Meeting the Dekrakers
My mom met a really nice Canadian couple on a plane. Bob and Ann were traveling to Honduras on a mission to help build a school in a rural area.
My mom shared that our family was in the process of trying to immigrate to Canada and they decided to stay in touch over email. I remember going to meet Bob and Ann at the Tegucigalpa airport before they left Honduras.
A couple years later, Bob and Ann waited for us at the Toronto Airport with a sign, "Welcome to Canada".
We arrived at the Toronto airport in our "fancy" clothes (read: blisters on our feet). My parents thought it was important to look good as we started our new life.
We had our first taste of Tim Hortons with them...
Bob and Ann went above and beyond what one would expect of a couple that my mom met briefly on a plane, and then briefly at the airport.
Bob and Ann welcomed my family into their home... They had a camping trailer that they set up for us on their farm for us to have a place to land before we were able to secure a place of our own.
Talk about soft landing...Ann was an avid gardener and their farm was filled with beautiful flower beds and lots of space for my brother and I to run around. We spent about a week or so on their farm before we were able to move to our first apartment.
For people that had or have the privilege of knowing Bob and Ann, this probably does not come as a surprise. Bob is, and Ann was, such generous souls.
They treated us like family from the moment we landed.
I remember how they shared their own immigration stories with us and encouraged us not to feel embarrassed when we did not know how to say something in English.
My family has a lot of funny stories of miscommunication during our first few years, but I will also save that for another post as well.
The day after we arrived, Bob and Ann took us to school. There was only a few weeks left but Marianne, the daughter of Bob and Ann, was the principal at the school. She took the time to personally introduce us to our new classrooms.
Bob and Ann helped us find our first apartment...
They introduced my family to their church community...they helped my parents figure out how to apply for jobs and prepared them for interviews....they talked positive things about our family to other people and encouraged others to get to know us... they made sure we always had a family to spend the holidays and special occasions with.
Their extended family welcomed us with open arms...they became our Canadian family.
I always think about how different our lives would have been, if we did not have such a strong support system when we moved to Canada...if we had to navigate all the changes on our own...
I did not fully appreciate it until I started working at Legal Assistance of Windsor with some immigrant families that lacked the proper support.... it made me feel sad to see the struggle to find a community.
We are hardwired to crave belonging....
Leaving family is hard.... but it is even harder when one does not feel accepted by a foreign community or struggles to integrate alone.
I would love to see other families receive the same kind of love and support that my family had.
For my family, their impact was life-changing.
As always, but especially today, I am so happy to call Canada home and to celebrate this special day for my family.
I would love to hear your immigration story and how you celebrate!
Ps. The picture featured on this post was taken by Carolyn Bentum, a part of my Canadian family. My wedding was photographed by her, and pictured is my grandpa Bob.