Discover more from Sundays with Stella
When we lived in Somerville, our get-togethers were simple. We were new immigrants from the Philippines working minimum wage jobs. We shared home-cooked meals and felt content hanging out together. We played card games, sang Broadway and pop tunes, exchanged stories, re-told memories from back home, and cracked jokes that made us laugh so hard until our stomachs hurt. Our regular treats were the latest Hollywood films at the nearby movie theatre.
Our first vehicle was a two-door Subaru Justy. My family could only afford the smallest one so my father made us pile inside the car, including my mother, to see if we would fit. No amount of sweet talk convinced him to close the sale. He had a set price in mind and refused to budge. The exasperated salesman relented at the final hour before the dealership closed.
We bought bedding and kitchenware at Kmart. My brother asked the lady at the checkout counter for directions to the bus stop. “Look for a satellite and then make a right,” she instructed. We wandered around the streets for 10-15 minutes, shopping bags on hand, scanning rooftops and any structure that resembled it. Was it a dish or an antenna? We were clueless. We returned to the store to inquire again. Apparently, the lady's directions were correct but her thick Boston accent threw us off— she meant “set of lights.” We were in stitches on the bus ride home.
When the first snowfall arrived, we peeked through the blinds and observed how our not-so-pleasant neighbor from across the street methodically shoveled his sidewalk. What was that white stuff he poured? We asked each other. We visited a hardware store and determined they were ice melts— a mixture of salt and sand to thaw ice on the pavement. Once we figured it out, we replicated what our neighbor did. We acclimated by imitating others.
One summer, we headed to the Esplanade with our friends Mariza and Doc Tins to watch the 4th of July fireworks. The crowds gathered along the riverbank to listen to the Boston Pops Orchestra. It was a humid day so we planned to watch the event from the top floor of the office building where my older sister worked. Floor-to-ceiling windows filled the room. We had a front and center view of the Charles river plus air conditioning! We brought a portable radio cassette player and tuned in to the station that carried a live broadcast of the Pops concert. Around 10:00 pm, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture filled the airwaves.
The fireworks were spectacular. We watched in awe as every burst kept growing larger and more colorful. For several minutes, no one spoke except for a few praises here and there. No one knew what the future held for us in America. We were simply happy to be together at that moment.
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