|The many faces of Maty Bombay Cariaga|
The first thing I did this morning, after the cell phone alarm had completed its nightmarish, faux-cheerful, electronic xylophone squawk, was to sing "Happy Birthday" to Maty Bombay. She's not a morning person, but she did manage to look over at me and whisper "Tank you." (She has trouble pronouncing the soft "th.")
She's been seven years in the United States now. That's nearly a quarter of her life. (She was born in 1979.) As a lifelong Oregonian with no plans to ever leave, I find it hard to imagine how it must be for her, living in a world so completely different from the one she knew in Burkina Faso. The lessons of America have, I know, been both inspirational and disillusioning for her.
On the one hand, this is the land of opportunity, especially when set against the bleak poverty of Burkina Faso. Although, from the perspective of her left-wing husband, these United States are unjustly geared toward preserving the plutocracy, to Maty, even considering our nation's current job woes, we're still doing pretty well.
On the other hand, this middle-class perch on which we rest can be mighty precarious. And it's a long fall from the heights of relative economic comfort to the stony floor of poverty and destitution. Maty certainly knows that.
She hasn't forgotten her homeland and her people. Part of her weekend routine is to spend several hours on the phone, catching up with her parents, her siblings, and her friends who are still in Africa. She regularly sends gifts for birthdays and other occasions. And she does what she can for them when they need help.
But Maty is charging ahead in her quest to integrate herself into American culture. She is now working as a Certified Nursing Assistant, licensed by the State of Oregon. She has her Permanent Resident (Green) card. Next, she plans to attain an Oregon Driver's License and her US Citizenship.
Well, here she is, settled in America for better or worse, as the saying goes. And, dear reader, let me just tell you: I am so very proud of my wife. Whenever I find myself bogged down in some morally-ambiguous predicament, I count on her to help me find the virtuous path. Her Muslim faith, the upbringing she received from her parents, and her kindly, honorable nature evoke in me a trust and gratitude that makes every day a blessing. (Even when we're having one of "those" days.) She provides me with a validation that I can't adequately express. Suffice it to say that if someone as noble as Maty can see the good in me, I can't be all that bad.
Happy Birthday, Maty, my love.