We were supposed to meet up at the schoolyard in hopes that the gates were open. A forbidden playground only accessible to students attending its school. My viewpoint as someone growing up poor was that I was excluded from this playground because of my poverty. All I wanted at that time was to be at the colorful playground equipped with slides, monkey bars, swings, ladders, and even a playhouse. I never went there because the gates were always closed. But that day, the gates of the parking lot were open, and my friend and I decided to bring our baby sisters along. We walked into the parking lot, strollers in hand, with no vehicles in sight. I remember thinking it was weird, but I hadn’t given it much thought.
As we got closer to the stairs, I realized that the door was closed, but not locked. I pushed open the door with so much joy. I couldn’t wait to go on the red slide. We played for hours: tag, waterslide, and monkey bars. I could say it was one of my favorite childhood memories. But it was time for us to leave, so we headed towards the closest exit, only to find out that it was closed. We walked back toward the entrance hoping it would still be open, but to our surprise, it was now locked. So yes, we were stuck in the schoolyard with two babies and no way to get out!
I was in big trouble -- not only because we were trespassing, but because my mom didn’t know. As the oldest, I took initiative and decided we would leave by climbing the fence because it was the closest to the sidewalk. First, I tossed the strollers over the gate. Then I started climbing with my baby sister. Every dangerous possibility ran through my head: What if something happened? What would I tell my mom? Could an eleven-year-old go to jail? I had to persevere because there was no other option. Holding her with one arm and climbing the fence with the other, I felt her weighing me down as I was struggling to keep my balance. I pushed my legs up against the fence until I got to the top, making sure I didn’t look down. I handed her to a stranger who randomly happened to be passing by at the time, and repeated these same steps with the other baby. All I could think was that I had to keep them safe. Somehow we made it to the other side safely.
As I reflect on my silly fence-climbing episode, I realize that it is nothing compared to the dangers that refugee parents fleeing war, torture and political collapse have to go through. Crossing deserts, climbing borders, and even getting on rickety boats over dangerous seas are catastrophic hardships parents endure to give their children a better life.
Seeking asylum from a war that constantly threatened to claim the lives of her three children, my mother fled from Liberia to America, leaving her firstborn in the hands of family friends. It has been nineteen years since she has last seen him in person. Ever since then, she has reassured herself that her sacrifice was all for giving her kids a brighter future. A future that she knew would be granted in America. This in itself was another obstacle she had to face. Her anxiety of crossing over a cultural divide was real, learning a new language, wearing new clothes, and even trying new foods felt like a betrayal to her culture, but she preserved.
Much like my mom, I won't settle for staying locked inside or outside the playground. I am determined to keep climbing the fences of life. My disobedience at the
age of eleven served as a lesson that I will always find a solution to an obstacle and face it head-on, despite the circumstances.