Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Passport (07/25/05)
TITLE: Passport to Freedom
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Rosa’s father brought home news of a passport to freedom – a dream called America where people did not live isolated lives amidst rows of potatoes, beans, and tomatoes.
“Don’t you see,” he boomed, “If we go to AMERICA, we can be free - free to find a better way to live!”
Rosa’s family members lived the hard life of remote Italian peasants. They suffered through hot and humid summers of backbreaking farm work and then suffered through frigid winters with nothing but a fireplace to heat their stone house.
However, Rosa’s mother fearfully clung to the familiar. She longed for no such passport to freedom, only the traditional routine that defined her life and that of her mother and grandmother.
“Don’t make me leave,” she pleaded meekly. “I do not want this freedom you speak of. Please, I beg you, let us all stay here where we know everyone. I would rather struggle with little than go to this strange land.”
Rosa’s Aunt Maria lived next door and patiently listened through open windows while her brother lectured his family. Rosa regularly joined Aunt Maria as she harvested vegetables, cooked massive iron pots full of tomato sauce and garlic, and walked the grassy hills with her animals to hunt for wild mushrooms. Rosa loved the fact that Aunt Maria wore the scent of ripe cheese everywhere she went.
Rosa also often searched Aunt Maria’s calm hazel eyes - as clear and sparkly as the Mediterranean. Aunt Maria was unlike either of Rosa’s parents. Aunt Maria knew what it meant to be free; Rosa could tell. Might there be a link between her stories of Jesus and the Catholic saints and her peaceful countenance?
“Honey, freedom is something only God can give you,” she would say, “right here.” Aunt Maria would pause while digging red potatoes with Rosa to clasp her hand over her chest. “Freedom happens in your heart, Rosa.”
Not long after Rosa’s tenth birthday in 1975, her father announced that his family would move across the ocean to live in the great land of opportunity. Rosa’s mother wailed for days while the family packed their meager belongings and said their goodbyes. “Ooooohhhh…I will waste away and die…and yet I must go…how can I let you all go without me?”
On the day they were to leave for the airport, Rosa’s father coached each of his children. “You will be asked this question: ‘Are you fascist or communist?’ You must answer ‘fascist’ or else you will not receive a passport and will return to Aunt Maria’s to dig potatoes for the rest of your life.”
Two years later, Rosa found herself living in New Jersey as a “wop”. At home, Rosa spoke and lived according to Italian tradition. Elsewhere, Rosa’s actions matched those of her American friends. Trapped by conflicting expectations, it seemed she was constantly living a lie. She could not forget Aunt Maria’s words: “Freedom happens in your heart, Rosa…”
After graduating from high school, Rosa’s parents settled into a comfortable Italian segment while their daughter accepted a job on Manhattan Island and initiated a new lifestyle. Even so, Rosa was haunted by her two identities. She became known for her beautiful smile, but felt wounded internally – the victim of a divided self-concept.
When dreaming in her sleep, Rosa found herself back in Italy, milking the goats or picking beans in the sunny garden with Aunt Maria. “Freedom is something only God can give you.” Rosa would awaken and then burst into tears: “I’m not free! Oh my God, who am I?”
A co-worker began talking to Rosa about Jesus daily. Initially Rosa avoided Nancy’s chatter about her “personal relationship with Jesus.” Nancy’s life was none of her business. And yet she heard Aunt Maria’s voice mirrored in Nancy’s.
On a crisp September afternoon, Rosa found herself driving down a familiar main street. It had been fifteen years since she emigrated from Italy. Her original passport to freedom had provided opportunity, but not peace. She spontaneously turned onto a side street leading toward Nancy’s house.
“I want Jesus, Nancy, I want what you have,” she sobbed, falling into her friend’s arms. “Jesus! Give me a peaceful heart – like Aunt Maria’s!” There was no audible voice, and yet Nancy knew the Lord addressed Rosa’s soul and spirit in that moment.
“Rosa, you’ve been trapped by your own fears and longings. Now you’re free! Come to Me; I AM your permanent passport to freedom.”
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