My Immigrant Story
Coming to America
Before my first birthday, my mother traveled via airplane with us 4 children and all she owned to come to the states. Her 24 hour itinerary consisted of 3 airplane rides and 2 layovers — all while carrying bags, an infant (without a stroller), and having to keep track of my 3 siblings ages 4, 6, and 7.
Her Journey Started Long Before the First Airplane
She spent months preparing. Dad was already in the states while mom sold what we couldn’t bring and packed all that was left. She said goodbye to her extended family and friends and then there was an extremely emotional goodbye to her elderly father and disabled mother.
When she told me the story of the departing scene, I couldn’t help but feel my eyes well up with tears. It’s such a sad and moving story. Watching my mother my entire life live separated from her mother left such an impression on me. It made me choose to never live far away from her.
Due to a civil war that began a few short years after leaving Lebanon, we never saw my grandfather again. He passed away before it was safe to return to visit them. 8 years after we left was the only time my mom ever saw my grandmother again.
My mom who could speak 3 languages – Arabic, French, and Italian – couldn’t speak English. With all the challenges she faced with coming to a new country while raising a young family, hands down the most difficult thing she had to deal with was the inability to communicate. Somehow, she still was able to work 3 jobs. Yes, you read that right, 3 jobs. My father was also working and after 2 years, they purchased their first home.
Tony’s Deli, a New Chapter
With limited speaking ability, my father and mother opened Tony’s Deli in 1979, a small corner store where she sliced lunch meat and sold beer and cigarettes to the adults and candy to the kids. She worked 7 days a week, 16 hours a day to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. No lie. Most of my life I experienced my mother standing in the store behind her counter. She retired just 10 years ago.
Yes, she would get breaks when one of us children would work in the store for her but it was only so she could run in the back to make us dinner. We always had a warm home cooked meal to eat. I always felt blessed.
One of my fondest memories is of when people would walk in the store and go nuts over the food they would smell cooking from our apartment.
Many years have gone by and today I own that little corner store. It looks a lot different now as it’s my print and design shop called Inspired Buffalo LLC. I never want to forget my roots and I want the next generation: my children, nephews and nieces, and my greats to hold these stories close to their hearts. After all, it’s their story, too.
Fundraiser for JFS of WNY
I can say with certainty that we didn’t have the amazing services that are available to many immigrants and refugees today. My heart goes out to these hurting refugees and is my inspiration behind wanting to raise money for the institutions and grassroots organizations that lend a helping hand to them.
Tomorrow, Sunday, April 30th at midnight, is the last day to order your Be You Be United gear to benefit Jewish Family Services of WNY’s refugee programs. Please join me in raising money for this great organization. 20%of all proceeds will go directly to JFS. Click here to buy now. Click here to read about JFS’s refugee programs.