We all make sacrifices for our children. Gone are the impulsive vacations for two and, in their place, road trips where we hope the kids don’t actually have a fist-fight. Gone are lazy Saturday mornings reading a book, and, in their place, some set of orchestrated activities until it’s a sane time to start the day. But these are little, temporary sacrifices. Anyone on the Peninsula need a cleaning lady?
On Friday, I asked my cleaning lady if her daughter was excited to start fifth grade. Yesenia had legally immigrated to the US over 15 years ago and started a housekeeping business. By saving her pennies, she bought a run-down house in East Palo Alto. Then she secured a spot for her daughter in the Palo Alto public schools. The schools required Yessenia to take classes in order to learn how to support her daughter. She took them. She saved more money and improved their house. Her daughter focused on school-work and learning English to match her Spanish. Yesenia brings her to the houses she cleans so that Jessica has a clear understanding of why she must focus in school.
Yesenia asked me on Friday if anyone I knew needed house cleaning. She needs to make a few more dollars per week because she has found a college student who will tutor Jessica to make sure Jessica can succeed in fifth grade. Its not about vacation or a new car – it’s about giving her daughter the gift of education and a future. And it doesn’t matter to Yesenia how many houses she has to clean to do it.
My family immigrated almost 100 years ago. I wonder how awful it must have been in Russia and Eastern Europe to leave everyone you love and everything you know forever and go to a new country. I’m awed by the courage. I’ve met people who made that choice more recently in the early 1980s (from Russia) and they told me it was, without a doubt, for their children to have more opportunities than they have. Conversations like these make me very thankful that my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents had the courage to do it for me.
Anyone on the Peninsula need a cleaning lady?