Cristina Henriquez wrote a touching novel called, The Book of Unknown Americans, which details the aspirations of many characters who came to the United States. Celia Toro is one character for which, after reading, I realized I had an understanding on a deeper level. Although Celia had her family with her, she reminded me of an instance when I knew someone who did not and had to fight to make a good life for herself and her children, whom she had to leave. Through my experience as a young child, I had a real life “Celia” whom was my dad’s former girlfriend. I experienced her determination to make her life and everyone around her better, much like Celia Toro, and witnessed her struggle to make her children’s life better.
In one instance, Celia Toro from page 67, was doing her best to provide a touch of the “American Pie” for her friends and family when she served the weekly sandwiches using a sophisticated way of presentation. This connected with me through my experience as a teenager because my dad’s former girlfriend was much the same way because she would always have a new desert waiting for our “family” to enjoy, which she also connected to the “good life”. A weekend was never complete, in her eyes, without her famous deserts and weekly trips to shop for her ideal of “class”.
My dad’s former girlfriend’s ideal of class was different from what I would think to be the definition. She would not only shop for expensive groceries to enjoy, but also purchase a different candle each time she went shopping. She had explained at one time that providing deserts and having a new candle every week was her way of reminding herself that life was better, and she was secure financially. Without those weekly trips, she would become saddened and fearful that her time of security would soon come to an end.
My dad’s former girlfriend also had children she had left behind, which made living without them a challenge financially. Every week my dad would give her money to send overseas to her children because they were very poor and depended upon my family for survival. Each time I grew out of clothing, it would also be sent to her children for them to wear. I experienced the pain my dad’s girlfriend had suffered and the joy of her life being with us, as well. Celia and my dad’s former girlfriend were much alike in that they each tried to live for others, which is something that should be treasured by those they touched.
Reading about and experiencing their struggles, makes me thankful for my blessings.