When I was younger, my father and mother had to leave me and my sister in the care of my grandmother in Mexico, where we were born and raised. My parents left for the United States. My dad worked hard to try to get us to live with them. I used to believe the mountains I saw from my grandmother’s house were New York, where my parents were. They seemed close, but now I know that was far.

I don’t recall how I got to the United States. All I remember is being in a van with a lot of people. It was very crowded. I remember not having much space to stretch. I do remember my first time eating a sandwich. I was given a bologna sandwich with American cheese. I had never tasted bologna or American cheese. It tasted weird, but I ate it anyway.

I remember the first day I arrived in New York. It was in Park Slope, in Brooklyn. My parents lived there. I remember that when I arrived, someone opened the car door for me. It was very cold, and it was snowing. I had never seen snow in my life. I remember I had no shoes on.  When I got out, I walked onto the cold sidewalk. My dad picked me up. I was six years old.

I now look back and say to myself, What was I thinking?  Every time the story comes up, I laugh because I remember my first day in New York was with no shoes.

Now I like sandwiches, too.

Anita Pareja GutierrezBorn in Mexico, Anita Pareja Gutierrez lives in Brooklyn with her two daughters, with whom she enjoys going on adventures, especially in the outdoors. One of her aspirations is to work in a library because she loves being surrounded by books. Her story “Chavelita” was published in LR18. A student in the High School Equivalency program of the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone, her teacher is John Kefalas.