Get Picking

Photo by David Brossard/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.
Photo by David Brossard/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Growing up in India, Stacy Ebby was born in the South Indian state of Kerala near the tropical Malabar Coast next to the bright sapphire sea, filled with palm tree lined beaches and exotic wildlife. Her grandfather,“Appachan,” used to make her help on his farm planting coconut trees, mango trees, pears, jackfruit, ginger, turmeric, green chile, green beans and yams. Her grandpa wasn’t afraid to make her work and taught her many lessons in farming and hard work. One day she was sitting around watching TV, even though she was hardly allowed when her appachan told her to help pick weeds out the grass. “Get outside! Now!” he said. Stacy didn’t want to leave mid show but knew she had no choice. Her appachan gave her a huge weaved basket and told her to “Get picking.” Upset and muttering, Stacy pulled the grass and in the end to prove her anger she destroyed one of the ant castles in the backyard by throwing it into a pond. Her appachan saw what she had done, beat her, and after that, she learned TV wasn’t worth it. Soon after she moved from her grandparents house and grew up in the city of Mumbai located on North India’s West Coast where she stayed until she was eleven.

Stacy had a lot of family members in the U.S— some in New York, some in Philadelphia and so on. Her uncle would come visit the family whenever he was in India and bring new things she had never thought existed. She remembers eating a fruity yellow piece of gum that she didn’t really like because it was too sweet. Juicy Fruit. Stacy laughs recalling the memory. Juicy Fruit almost killed her when she tried to swallow it. She didn’t know what it was. Her Uncle told her “No, no, no you’ll die! Don’t swallow that.” She was happy she didn’t have to swallow the overly sweet killer piece of gum.

An athletic tomboy at heart, Stacy loved playing around and causing trouble. Stacy would play roughly with her male cousins and even broke a boy’s nose to defend her little brother. She was titled “the bad one” out of her two other siblings.. Her grandma, “Ammachi” in her native Malayalam tongue, scolded often and would relinquish questionable punishments. When Stacy was five years old, she got in trouble for breaking a jar of ghee her grandmother made. At her age, she didn’t know enough. It didn’t cross her mind to get rid of the evidence, so she left the mess. Her ammachi later came in and asked “Who did this?!” Her ammachi took her outside, tied her up to a big tree and left her there overnight. “I’m dead,” she thought. Tales of ghosts and deadly snakes crossed her mind and made her fear rise. Stacy feels that some of her grandmother’s punishments were extreme but memories like that stayed deep within her heart and shaped many of her morals; she didn’t grow up with a selfish heart and her parents always instilled in her the power of giving to others that may be less fortunate.

Memory; Friendship

Stacy stares through the school window deep in thought. Her childhood friend, Mayoori had confided in her, saying she was unable to afford a set of required crayons and was afraid of being hit by the teacher. Pain and worry in her voice Stacy knew her friend would indeed get in trouble. In class, Stacy was thinking of a thoughtful plan to take the crayons from her family’s cupboard and bring them to Mayoori. Stacy being deep in thought had not been paying attention to the teacher and was abruptly accosted. The teacher threw a piece of chalk that made harsh contact with her head. The teacher grabbed Stacy’s hand, turned it around and slammed her knuckles with a steel ruler: “Go kneel down outside for the rest of class!” As Stacy walked out, hurt and sad, she handed her own crayons to Mayoori.

Transition into Womanhood;

Stacy knew nothing about menstruation. She was playing with her favorite cousin when he spotted blood flowing down her leg. He was shocked and she was clueless. “I didn’t hurt myself anywhere,” she said. So they started searching all over her body to see signs of injury. It was to no avail. Finally, he said he’d get help and got her mom; she was shocked. She told Stacy to follow her and lead her through the hallways. Stacy kept telling her that she didn’t do anything wrong and that she didn’t fall anywhere. It was as if she refused to believe Stacy. Stacy tried reaching out to her but she scolded her and told her not to touch her. Stacy felt hurt, she was only 11 and confused as hell. Stacy followed her to the bathroom and waited there for her mother to return. After waiting for what felt like years her mom returned covering something in her gown. She closed the door behind her and Stacy started spurting out question after question. “Mom, what’d I do wrong? I promise, I didn’t fall. I’m not hurt. It’s okay. Can I leave?” She kept telling Stacy to shut up and told her to take her shorts and underwear off. Stacy saw blood on her underwear and started freaking out. Stacy kept asking her if she knew why she was bleeding and where it was coming from. Stacy thought she needed a hospital and felt as though she was dying. Stacy started crying hysterically. She thought she was dying and that her mother didn’t want her anymore.“I’m way too young to die.” She thought. Her mother handed her a bundle of folded cloth pieces and asked her to put it in her underwear. She told her not to touch her brother, cousin and any other males in the family. She had no more doubts about being struck by some sort of terminal illness. She wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone about this so she ended up assuming that this was solely her issue and that no one else shared this experience. They never explained what was happening to her. Stacy finally found out once she arrived in the U.S and went to middle school. She spotted a pad in the garbage and was shocked to see that it wasn’t hers. She shared an unexpected moment with a garage can and it was liberating. She later on she found out it was called her period.

Memory; Hunger

Two pairs of small bruised feet strutted along the wet tarred road in the village. Rain poured down mercilessly onto the empty plates the children were carrying. Stacy recalls her mom, Mary, peeping out the front door, calling to them. The two children frantically looked around searching, until finally resting upon her mother peering out from behind the door. She then showed the children a container of food gesturing to come near. They raced to her doorstep and reached out their plates, yearning set in their eyes. She quickly placed food on their plates and went inside. Stacy stands there baffled and confused, that was her food. She hasn’t eaten yet and felt hunger pains. Stacy looks to her mom who now has tears in her eyes, and stroked Stacy’s head. Her mother told her that there’s no more food even and if she slept for a while, she would no longer feel hungry. Stacy questioned her mother for giving food to the two girls before herself and she gently replies, “You’ll experience more satisfaction sharing a meal than you ever could keeping it for yourself.”

Coming to America

Stacy flew to the U.S in 2007 during the recession at the almost preteen age of 11, when President George W. Bush was still in office. They were planning to move in with her Uncle on Long Island, in Bethpage until they could seek a home of their own. The U.S was not in a good place, people were losing jobs left and right due to layoffs and other circumstances. Stacy’s uncle, on her mom’s side, lived in the U.S and told her the typical “American Dream Story” about how her father could get a better job and that Stacy and her siblings would get a better education if they moved. Only Stacy’s dad was comfortable with the idea of moving to the U.S. “I’m already so used to living in India, how could I give this up?” She thought. Stacy rejected the idea still but her father’s word was final. He told her family to think about all the new opportunities. Not fully aware of what was totally going on in the U.S. they followed her father’s wishes. Moving to a new country is tough. “You leave behind all your friends and memories you had growing up in the houses and places you primarily lived in.”

Stacy didn’t grow up watching a lot of American movies and barely knew any cartoons or Disney movies except Aladdin. Her parents didn’t believe in having a TV and thought it would make their children dumb. When they did have one for a bit, they soon got rid of it. So when it came to knowing America, Stacy didn’t know what to expect. Since a lot of people get some of their expectations from movies for any country, she felt as though she didn’t really have any big expectations.. Stacy did, however, read a lot of books such as Harry Potter which opened up her view on what being an American may be like, except Harry Potter is English and a wizard. Stacy thought that people in America would be very interesting. She attended a British orientated school so she did speak and understand English even though she had a British accent. Stacy thought she would feel good talking to them and getting to know different kinds of people. She knew there would be people that would look different from her. In India people looked different but mainly in shades and different features since they were all mostly Indian. She knew she was going to run into different kinds of people and that she would experience new technology from a more developed country which excited her precocious brain.

The first thing she recalls of entering the plane was how excited she was. She had never been on a plane before. As they rocketed to the sky she remembers the painful popping of her ears then soon figured out she had motion sickness. She and her brother both wound up taking turns puking in the bathroom. After experiencing such terrible effects she grew hesitant of ever taking a plane again. She ate lots of food and watched movies on her trip over which made her happy since she got to try something new that surprisingly didn’t add to her sickness. One funny movie she remembers watching was “Despicable Me” with the loveable minions. Her parents told her she had to be careful of her belongings and stay alert.

Stacy remembers staring out the window looking at the clouds. “Fascinating.” She thought. There was a nice mixture of people on the plane but the majority were Indian since they were flying from an Indian airport. The first thing Stacy saw when she got off the plane was a bus that takes you from the plane to the airport. The bus was pretty crowded and soon after she got on she was smothered up against the buses wall by a large woman. Smells of perspiration filled the bus and she couldn’t wait to get off. As soon as she got into the airport she saw a lot of new hairstyles she’s never seen in her life, from Mohawks to an array of different hair colors ranging from the blackest black to the bluest blues.

The Transition of living the American Dream;

Later came the transition and the culture shock which was very difficult. Her family, especially her parents, had more of an old, traditional way of looking at things which made it harder for them to adjust. They both had a heavy accent and people didn’t really know what they were saying. One time her dad went to a breakfast shop and asked for a bagel but pronounced it as “bag-oul.”

The cashier lady said, “A what?”

He said, “Can I have a bag-oul please?” The cashier still couldn’t understand him and after five more tries, he wound up just pointing at it.

Back to Life;

Her father was told he would get a better job when he came here but due to the recession at the time it was tough for him to find any good jobs, so he had to start working layman jobs like Dunkin’ Donuts. Her mom couldn’t find anything as well because her Bachelors in Economics couldn’t be used here. Her sister was okay; she began taking college courses and thankfully her previous credits transferred over. Her sister had to start working immediately at Target and become like a third parent to Stacy and her brother. Stacy came when she was in middle school and had her own peculiar way of dressing. She dressed like a boy and even had a short boy haircut. She wore a lot of her male cousins’ hand-me-downs. There were a few nice people and who helped teach her “American norms.” In class she would love to raise her hand and ask questions but other students would talk about her and her British accent. She grew afraid to raise her hand in class. “I was scared even to ask for a pencil.” To Stacy it was a different mentality than what she was used to. “The more I learned about the culture the more I closed off.” Stacy and her family stayed with her uncle, wife and his three children when they first got to America, down stairs. Her parents hoped to find a good job and wanted to have their own home like they did back in India. It was hard going from being upper middle class citizens with servants to living in a lower class with a sister acting as a third parent to support the family financially.. Years rolled past and they gained a lot of debt. Stacy and her family wanted her sister to get married but she is still working to put her and her brother through school because her parents can not. Stacy’s hoping she gets through school for now and finishes up her major. As the second oldest she wants to share some of the responsibility her sister has and better, not only her future, but her family’s.

Second Oldest;

Stacy just graduated from Nassau Community College Spring 2015 with her Associates in Psychology. She applied to different schools so she could transfer and get her Bachelor’s. Her heart was set on Cornell University because they had the type of psychology she wanted to study, Occupational Psychology. Her mom and dad, being strict traditional Indian parents, only allowed her to apply somewhere away from home and upstate due to her financial situation. Since she had such a low income they were hoping for scholarships and plenty of government help. Unfortunately, she didn’t get in. Pinning her hope on Cornell she was depressed by the news. Her family worked so hard and was struggling. Being an immigrant in America wasn’t easy. Her burden of school and making herself someone her parents could be proud of did a toll on her. Already going through so much, Stacy started to shut herself out from the world. After some time, she opened up again, letting new possibilities come in: Stony Brook.

Moving out and dorming at Stony Brook was nerve-wracking for Stacy. She commuted to and from Nassau with the help of her dad and sister. Stacy attended classes and worked nights in order to save up money for her and her family. Stacy’s sister was the main bread winner of the family. She received her Bachelors in Microbiology and helped out Stacy even more once she got accepted to Stony Brook. Having almost a 10 year difference in age, Stacy and her sister didn’t get along as well as some until recent years. This year was going to be different and she was ready for a new start with her first roommate.

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