Often, when refugees reach safe harbor with relatives in the United States there is a sense of bittersweet relief. The circumstances can be unimaginable.
In the late 90s, Liberia was in another Civil War led by dictator, Charles Taylor. My grandmother and her sister fled to Minnesota in order to escape Taylor’s regime. They found a safe haven at my aunt and uncle’s, the same place my family was staying.
My grandma and her sister were often isolated during the day while all the grown folks went to work and my sisters and I went to school. They loved every soap opera on TV and admired Oprah.
One day after school my grandma and her sister had concerned looks on their faces. I thought something terrible must have happened back home. They shared with me that Oprah was going to have this woman named Ellen on her show. They explained, Ellen was “trapped in some closet and is going to come out of it.” They were praying for her. I smiled, but was too embarrassed to explain that Ellen was not literally trapped in “a closet.” I left the explaining to my uncle.
When my uncle got home from work he explained to our elders what “coming out of the closet” meant. They laughed and asked, “Why didn’t they just say that in the first place?” With tears of laughter my two elderly beacons of hope settled a little further into life in America.