Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sheri's Wrinkles

Like many immigrants in the U.S., Sheri doesn’t know what she would do if she was ever forced to return to her native country. Sheri moved to the U.S. in 1992 from North Bay, Ontario. Her father was in the Canadian military and was assigned to NORAD. She was only 16 when she moved here and doesn’t know anyone in Canada anymore, including distant family.

Sheri experienced culture shock when they moved to Rome, New York because there was no ethnicity other than white where she lived in Canada. Before her move, she never really understood the whole concept of racism but when she saw how the different high school cliques treated each other, she was surprised. Sheri graduated from high school in the U.S. and carries a green card today as a legal alien. She hopes to eventually become a U.S. citizen because she wants the right to vote and she doesn’t want to live in fear of being deported. Sheri doesn’t consider herself an immigrant, but when she looks at her green card that expires in April, she feels like one. She is an immigrant only because the government says she is.

Sheri would never want to go back to Canada because she has no good childhood memories. She laughed and said she blamed Canada for that. She was teased about her accent when she moved to the States. She said a teacher asked her a question once and when she answered she said, “aboot” rather than “about.” The teacher pointed to his shoe and said, “This is a boot.” Another time she called the All-American baseball food a “hut dog” and her classmates teased her, saying “Hut” is a football word.

Sheri did say one good thing about Canada is the free health care. She recently had a broken finger, but was unable to seek medical help because she had no money and no insurance. As a result, her finger is permanently deformed. She said the 15% taxes in Canada are worth the free health care.

When Sheri was in college, she got pregnant and married her boyfriend. Because they had to find a way to support themselves and a baby, her new husband joined the military. He was stationed in Minot, North Dakota for 2 ½ years – a place she was not fond of because of the bitter cold and stark landscape. I asked the classic question, “Why not Minot?” We both laughed and said, “Because it’s too cold!” We joked that North Dakota’s state bird is the mosquito and the state tree is the telephone pole. However, North Dakota offers one perk not found in Tennessee: summer daylight lasts until 10:00 p.m.

Sheri and her husband eventually made their way to Nashville, but they were divorced after seven years of marriage, four years in Nashville. They share a son, Jonathan, who is 11 years old and in the sixth grade. Jonathan is living with his father now, so Sheri only sees him on weekends. Mother and son miss each other terribly, so she is looking forward to his return home in December.

Sheri’s current husband is a stereotypical used car salesman, and in fact used to work at Bill Heard Chevrolet. Her one year marriage has been difficult and Sheri lays the blame on her in-laws. She allowed her son to move in with his father because she didn’t want him influenced by her husband’s family; they have faced numerous criminal arrests in different states. Her brother-in-law has faced drug-related and armed robbery charges and her mother-in-law was recently booked for pan-handling and theft.

Sheri has had three miscarriages with Fred. She thinks it may be God’s way of telling her she shouldn’t be in that marriage. Instead of sitting around depressed about it, Sheri wants to get on with her life. She will begin studies this winter at the Tennessee Technology Center to become a surgical technician. Sheri always wanted to work in the medical field because it offers job security. That will give her the opportunity to figure out if the situation she’s now in is where she wants to be in the long-haul.

Within two years, Sheri wants to have the job skills that will allow her to celebrate her own Independence Day. She wants to be able to support herself and her son if she chooses to follow that path. She fully intends to pursue the basic freedom we all desire: happiness.


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