04 July 2013

Coming to America

Rutledge Ave., Charleston, S.C.
Repost of 7/4/2009 entry:

For much of my life I felt like what my brother Jim likes to call a "Cultural Nomad". Each time I moved I started over completely with little overlap of friends or family. I had finished high school in India and my family had returned there. I was alone in Canada and by some happy stroke of good fortune was accepted into the Nursing program at Ryerson University in Toronto. It was during the time nursing schools were being absorbed into universities but I found a room in the old dorm at the Hospital for Sick Children.

I'd never had a room or bed of my own, worn any clothes but hand me downs, hadn't eaten a whole candy bar, never been in a bank or driven a car. I had braids down to my waist, dorky glasses and had seen three movies in my life. I was alone in Toronto after being part of a family of ten and I was in heaven. I loved it. I cut my hair, bought a pair of jeans, ate my first pizza and squeezed a lifetime of new experiences into two years.

It was a nasty wake up call to discover there was a freeze on hiring nurses when I graduated. Nothing. I applied everywhere, but nurses were working in book stores and as waitresses that year and half of my class left the country. US hospitals crossed the border to recruit us. We were considered good catches for foreign nurses since we already spoke English, eh.

I naively accepted the first job I was offered, packed everything I owned in a single suitcase and one small cardboard box and ended up in St. Petersburg, Florida. I was immediately assigned to be Charge Nurse on a Medical Surgical Floor. Poor souls.

That was 1977. I married my hippie from Philadelphia and moved into his half built cabin on a mountain in West Virginia. I worked in community hospitals and large medical centers. I had two children, ran a free- standing birthing center in Hurricane, W.Va. and eventually settled in the lowcountry arriving the year before hurricane Hugo.

I've been welcomed, respected, taught by experts and loved in this country. After my divorce I finally went through the process of becoming a citizen and every year on July the 4th I feel gratitude to the friends I've made in this country and for the home I found in Charleston.