This 4th of July: Memories of America
First and foremost, Happy Independence Day to all American readers! I’ve never had a chance to properly remember this day when we were living in Pennsylvania. But I did remember singing the National Anthem and reciting the pledge when we were in class. This happened more than 20 years ago, when I was just 7 years old and starting primary school in a foreign country.
My mother had gotten her Masters education in Pennsylvania and this was where we stayed and went to school for the following 2 years. During this time, I learned to speak English with other foreign children and made new international friends in school. The best memories of America was when my father drove our Station Wagon across the country on long road trip. Even though I was young, I could still remember bits and pieces of this trip especially when our storage items tied on the roof of the car fell over when we were driving out of a car park. My dad never gave up and my mum kept us excited throughout the trip, making sure we would enjoy every minute of it.
This was my 4th of July memories which I had with my family even though it did not happen on that particular day. The independence of the country allowed us to live and study there with ease, even traveling around the country meeting all sorts of people along the way. There were some ups and downs but these were forgotten when good moments happen.
1. Seeing the Statue of Liberty up close.
One of the trip I remembered was to the Statue of Liberty. I don’t remember exactly when we made the trip but I remembered us taking photos right in front of me, feeling excited to see the lady up close. As we roamed the area, a few locals came up to my dad asking for money. He didn’t want to give them because they did not look homeless at all but because he was worried about our safety, he gave in. We didn’t go up because all of us were tired and it was a long way to climb the stairs.
2. Enjoying Sesame Street Water Park during summer.
This was the best part of being a kid while enjoying summer in America. My parents bundled us up in the car with our neighbor friends to Sesame Street water park. We loved the show since we were kids and we tried to keep our excitement level to a minimum, which was definitely hard. Once we got there, we changed to our suits and started going for the rides one by one with glee. There were so many people and everyone wanted to take photos with Big Bird and Cookie Monster who showed up occasionally.
3. Winter with family.
Whenever December came, we would stare out the balcony window waiting for the first snowflakes to trickle down. When it did arrive, we went out of the balcony and made a tiny snowman. My mum would hand us a carrot and two pebbles for us to make its nose and eyes. We even placed a hat on top to give it character. It was fascinating and the snowman stayed there for weeks. On the weekends we would go out with our plastic sleds and head over to the nearby park to play in the thick snow. My dad took us to a small hill where we rolled down together, screaming in delight. My late grandmother visited us during winter one year and we went out with her to play in the snow. It was so much fun!
4. Picking fruits somewhere in America.
I couldn’t remember where we picked these fruits but I do know that we had baskets of them during our trip to a peach and berry farm. Even though my mother studied during the weekdays, when she had the semester off, we would be in the car to somewhere new and this was why I loved road trips. The best part about this place was there we would only need to pay a fee and then we were free to pick as many fruits as we wanted.
5. Watching the Penn State parade.
Every year during the football season, our State area would hold a parade. My siblings and I were in raincoats with my mother holding on to umbrellas while we wait for the parade to begin. We always got the front row seats, sitting at the curb, waving to the Penn State lion mascot and other characters that drove by us. This love for parade grew on us even until today.
6. There was a Boston lobster.
There was one stop we made which was in Boston where we stopped to visit the Boston cruise ship. I remembered the huge lobster signage with the word Boston on it and that good seafood can be found here. We were sleepy from the long journey and my parents woke us up to take a walk at the pier. Later on I found out from them that the cruise ship was in fact a popular casino for the locals.
7. Getting starry-eyed in Universal Studios, California.
When you’ve watched Disney cartoons on television as a kid, you know a trip to the magical castle is a must. We definitely did that and it was the most memorable thing ever for me and my siblings. Not only that, our parents took us to a long trip to Universal Studios in California where we saw Steven Spielbergs’ Jaws movie set up close. We were in a small boat and a shark came out from the water, trying to snap at us. We screamed when the water splashed about in the boat and giggled afterwards.
8. Going to school in Easterly Parkway.
This was my first time in school after kindergarden and I had a hard time adjusting to the language at first. I also did not have a soft spot for the food served and remembered how the canteen guy would wait until I finished my food before clearing it. After that episode, my mum would make lunch for us in our cute lunch boxes and we ate from this instead. I’ve also made many friends during my 2 years studying in this school, picking up on English language quickly. We had slumber parties, Halloween night out, and birthdays together. I even have the letters each of my classmates wrote for my farewell.
9. Joining other Muslims for Aidilfitri.
There were other Malaysians staying in the same apartment and this is where we met other children who goes to the same school as us. When Hari Raya came, our place would be filled with people making satay, rendang, ketupat and other food for the celebration. We would then visit other apartments and enjoy the food and collecting money packets. It wasn’t as big as the celebration back home in Malaysia but we were there together as a family and that’s the only thing that mattered.
10. Celebrating birthdays in our apartment.
WMy parents made sure we would not miss out on birthday celebrations even though we were not in Malaysia. Therefore small parties where held once a year with neighboring friends. My mum baked our cakes and cooked snacks for us for this occasion. This is why we love birthdays a lot. These are some of the good memories I have of America while we were there. I watched how my mum finished her studies while looking after 3 of us monkeys at the same time. My dad joined us for a few months, taking leave from his job so that we could all be together. Those road trips in America and Canada were some of the fond moments I remembered.
Will there be a trip to USA soon?
I’m not sure about this because it’ll take 24 hours via flight to get there, going through all those transits. There’s definitely opportunities to go there but I’ll take that flight when I’m ready. It’ll definitely be nice to explore some cities and visit my old school again. Here’s to a Happy 4th of July to all my Americans friends around the world.
About Yafieda Jamil
A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.