Today I celebrate a life spent half in the USA and half in Brazil. Starting tomorrow I will have been here in the USA longer than I was in Brazil.
I was born at the Cornell U. hospital in Manhattan. A nicer way to say Metropolitan Hospital. At that time, 1952, the Bronx was beautiful. The most beautiful tree in the world was Rockefeller Center's Christmas tree.
We moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1957, just when I could see ice skates within my reach. I marvelled at the Sugar Loaf; a hill! There was a lit placard with moving news at the bottom of the Sugar Loaf. Botafogo, my first neighborhood in Rio, was getting crowded with those who sought a better life away from the north side, closer to the ocean. Next to my building was one so packed, it'd explode if the tenants flushed their toilets at the same time. I played with a Spaniard, José-?, whose mother was of ill reputation. In those days unmarried women, especially beautiful ones would be whores even if never having exchanged French kisses. Brazilians were L7 (square.)
I had scabs from hives: allergies to cotton oil, lard, I was teased for my Green-go accent. I immersed myself in books. Don't laugh -- I sobbed watching Pollyanna. Stars and Stripes etched in my mind.
On the other side of my building was an American-English Lycée. I saw a marching band once all my life in Rio. Sears Roebuck opened its doors with fanfarre next to the school, giving away hoopla-hoos. There were magicians and artisans blowing glass. It was the marvelous US way of doing business. Amigo, ¡muy amigo!
When I grew up I could never decide on a profession. I wished to study here. In 1984, my mentor, Bob Maple, helped me choose a school. USC's linguistics department was stellar back then. This date, August 16, 2007, marks my 22 years back in my country of birth. It is here I vote. Brazilian society caters to a collective self; we are individualistic here. I like that.
So, 5.5 years in NYC + 22 years in Greater Los Angeles = 27.5
In Rio I spent another 27.5 years; 1957 to 1985. I'm 55. (some math steps skipped.)
Brazil is where friends and I watched the sun rise on Ipanema or Leblon. Where I worked for ten years and collected my pension fund so I had money for a ticket. Where all my books were till 2005, when they were shipped here. My poetry. Friends, Jurassic friends and relatives. Mommy and Daddy, sister.photo blogging
My Rio de Janeiro seems to be gone, except for rare glimpses of smiles or jokes, Brasileiros love jokes. Sometimes I wonder why go back? Ipanema. Remembrance of things past.
"Paris and Rio are the most beautiful cities in the world," Mommy said this all the time.
Even if mockingly, I love L.A. My house, my son, my husband, the opportunities to be; even if weird, be somebody. A tiny fish in a big bowl as opposed to a big fish in a small bowl.
If I could, I would bring Ipanema closer to us so I could visit. This is a longing without regrets. I love the USA, my country, my fellow country people who seek change. We'll make it.
Tonight, I celebrate America, with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
Good morning, America! Saudades, Rio de Janeiro.