As a kid my mother tried not to let me dwell on my race or immigration status. That I’d go to college and get a job that would pay decently was never in question. When people wanted to talk to her about miserable it could be to live in the United States without papers, she also tried to focus on the awkwardness of having less than perfect English.
My mother had a co-worker named Jenny who was also from El Salvador. They met while working at a jewelry store in downtown L.A. and became friends. Jenny didn’t have the chance to learn English when she arrived, but wound up working as a cleaning lady for some swanky family in one of L.A.’s rich neighborhoods. They had a young girl. She had a lot of awkward moments and this is one that I remember vividly.
Jenny got head lice on some trip. The details on this are hazy but the family mom noticed that her daughter had head lice. She freaked out. Then the mother noticed that Jenny had head lice as well and literally saw lice walking across Jenny’s forehead. She started screaming and Jenny only one word in English: yes.
The mother decided to call 911 and pretty soon there ambulances, firemen, and other emergency personnel. Jenny just watched everything happen and she sat around as everyone asked her questions. Thankfully in the rush of head lice no one really asked about her immigration status as far as Jenny could remember.
A fireman asked Jenny a question and she didn’t want to be a bad sport so she answered yes. They proceeded to shave her head and quarantine the area until the mom Jenny worked for was convinced that she was lice-free.