A frigid winter’s night icing the streets of the city. Thousands of families are in town enjoying festivities in New York. Fifth Avenue is lavishly dressed in red, silver and gold. Hundreds of Christmas displays, beautiful bows and poinsettia decorations are the highlight for window shoppers. Holiday music plays in the background to spark lights of holiday spirit. Children and adults-alike are making their wish list to put under the tree, while others ask for very little. Several Christmases come and gone since the Perez family lost their anchor. They represent the picture of a modest, hard-working family that travels to the US in search of a dream. The couple and their 1-year old daughter, Alexa snuck into New York from the Dominican Republic during a time when immigration laws were not tightly enforced. Many families migrated to the city that never sleeps in hopes of a better life. In 2012, these children found an angel in the DACA program protecting the dreamers of the world. Alexa’s wish was granted, although it was what she didn’t ask for this Christmas that changed everything.
The Perez family spent decades working odd jobs. They were raised with the belief that if the work is honest it’s good work. Stretching every penny to give Alexa everything she needed growing up. They made sure nothing was amiss allowing her to focus on her education. Mr. Perez, a laborer waited each day at the same place hoping to pick up work. Rain or shine he posted himself at a designated location praying to get some hours in for the day. The matriarch of the family did whatever she could to help make ends meet. She cooked and cared for her family ensuring they had a warm home to rest their head and hearts at the end of each night. On odd days, she dedicated herself to clean homes for affluent families living in pricey Manhattan. She appreciated the way the other half lived but wouldn’t have changed place with any of those families. There was so much cohesiveness and love in her home. Life’s hardships and struggles brought them closer, strengthening their family ties. On a daily basis they woke out of bed with love in their heart and an insatiable will to fight. They were grateful for every season as long as they had the bare necessities.
Christmas was a time of joy, giving and blessings. Christmas Eve consisted of a traditional family dinner with pork shoulder, rice and peas and potato salad. The height of the holidays was custard and eggnog after dinner while reminiscing of past holidays. Sharing funny stories in front of their 4’ artificial Rite Aid tree were some of the most memorable moments for years to come. The morning of Christmas they would exchange one handmade gift. Their only prayer for the holiday was health because without it, they knew nothing else was possible.
Growing up Alexa learned the value of hard work seeing it from her parents. She applied the values instilled in her from a very young age. Believing if you work hard and hold tightly to your goals the right opportunities for success would present themselves. She forged ahead dedicating herself to her studies. Fueling energy and determination would give way to everything she wanted in life. Her tenacity to overcome any economic disadvantage drove her to push forward fearlessly. The opportunity provided by the DACA program (Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrival) would not be wasted neither would scholarships. The program gave her the chance to study despite her parent’s immigrant status. The ultimate dream was realized four years after graduation from Fordham University. The Perez family stood proud as she performed in the top 5% of the class taking the bar soon after. Alexa was content but insisted that the work would not been completed until she had what she most desired.
Her efforts paid off when she was offered a job working for one of the city’s most prestigious law firms in the city. Early in her career, she spent long hours assisting with cases. Her parents were getting older and time with them was dwindling. Months gone by without seeing them but she was relentless in her quest for success. Her eyes were on the prize without thought to life around her. Family holidays were no longer appreciated as work took precedence. Wish lists included more of the same, best that money can buy. Upward mobility provided the financial means to acquire a beautiful apartment high in the sky overlooking the East River with a closet most women would envy. She drove a car that most men dared to dream about in their lifetime. Her contact list included some of the wealthiest clients an attorney could retain. She had all the things on her wish list of Christmas past with tremendous prosperity but it didn’t suffice. There was always more to accomplish. It seemed the list got longer and longer for her as time moved on.
This year changed everything she had known up to now. She extended an invitation to her parents to spend Christmas together in the Dominican Republic. It would reunite all of them to celebrate making partnership at her firm. It was the first time in years she’d taken time out of her schedule to enjoy festivities. Holidays missed, time she couldn’t get back but hopeful that this one would make up for the others. Finally, she felt closer to her objectives allowing for free time to savor the fruits of her labor with family. The first one to arrive the Punta Cana Resort, the hours couldn’t fly by fast enough. She anxiously waited to see mom and dad. Their flight was scheduled to land hours ago but she hadn’t heard from them. As she picked up her cell phone to call the airport to check on their flight – a call came in.
Gentleman caller: “Ms. Perez, this is the Punta Cana police. Can you please verify you are the daughter of Miguel and Ana Perez? We found your contact information on their person.”
Alexa: “Hello! what’s happened to my parents!” Get them on the phone, now. Please.” she said in desperation.
Gentleman caller: “Ms. Perez, I’m sorry there has been an unfortunate accident on the way to the hotel. Your parents are deceased.” A long pause came then the policeman repeated the message.
She only heard the ominous voice say, “Your parents are deceased.”
(Surrounding voices echoed followed by complete silence)
The news shocked her to the core leaving her speechless as the phone slams, crashing on the marble floor. All her holiday memories came across as a flash movie before her eyes – Christmas Eve dinners, laughs in front of the tree sharing stories, making crafts for gifts. It was taken from her in seconds without warning. She would give anything to change her wish list a million times over. All she wanted for Christmas this year would be her parent’s health and happiness around that tree, once more.
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