Amidst the chaotic hum of New York City, my father had a strange encounter that would ultimately change the course of his life.
It was a hot day in the city. My father was walking down 47th Street to the jeweler’s shop where he worked. He noticed an older woman struggling to gather her groceries on a steep sidewalk.
My father knelt beside her and began to gather her fallen apples, oranges and canned foods. In return for his gesture, she offered my father a glimpse into his future. A rare and unprecedented gift for what my father perceived to be a natural and logical act of kindness on his part.
She briefly stared into my father’s eyes, using her weathered hands to uncurl his fingers. She delivered the following prophecy:
“This place, this city, is not your final destination.”
Her black-rimmed eyes met my father’s expression of surprise and disbelief. She raised her eyebrows and continued to speak. “Your heart will be the anchor that moors your body beside the woman who will bear your children. You will know her as a siren who bears your mother’s name. A name that is rare and therefore sufficient proof of the truths I have told you.”
She paused and began to chuckle as my father subconsciously pulled his hand away, wary and fearful of her words. “Are my words too generous?” she mused, seemingly reading his mind. “Am I overstaying my welcome?”
My father was a ripped-jeans-wearing, Bronx-bound Latino with a cigarette perpetually behind his ear. He wore his self-confidence like the bronze, diamond-studded lion that dangled from his neck. The shock of being told his life’s fate made him stiffen his back—he puffed his chest, and shook his thick, curly mane of dark hair over his pale shoulders. He bent his legs as if assuming a fighting stance, leaning into his back leg, tilting his chin upwards and folding his arms. Could she be telling the truth?
As the son of a provincial witch doctor in Ecuador, he didn’t take the woman’s words lightly. Yet, his steadfast belief in fate—that nothing happens by chance—seemed to ring hollow. Tears sprung to his eyes at the memory of his uncle transferring him his life savings on his nineteenth birthday, telling him that he could now travel to “the land of dreams” and “vivir sin pobreza’”—live without poverty.
“My destiny is here, Señora,” my father curtly replied, quashing his emotions with a stiff smile.
With that hint of innocent curiosity, the woman divulged the rest of her wisdom, “She will give you daughters, only daughters…. together you will suffer greatly. But the trials you will endure will teach you to love her greater still. Luckily, and for this I am glad, in the end, you will be compensated for this suffering. I can see the gold waiting for you.”
New York City, 1987.
When my parents met for the first time, my Australian mother was dressed in a mini Barbie pink dress with thick triangular shoulder pads. A cropped electric blue blazer hugged her waist. Her hair, a delicately sculptured afternoon cloud, cushioned a red lipped, daylight moon.
My father was entranced.
After minutes of studying a crisp map of New York City Highlights, my mother looked up at that [a]moment, catching my father’s gaze. She smiled to herself, trusting her instincts.
“Buenas tardes,” my mother began. “Me pudiera ayudar?” Good afternoon. Could you help me? I am not sure how to get to the Statue of Liberty.
“¿Sabe, señorita? Si gusta le acompañó…. mi nombre es Edgar, a sus ordenes,” my father eagerly replied. You know what, miss? If you think it’s okay, I can take you there… my name is Edgar. At your service.
My mother struggled to suppress a wide smile. “Porque no!” Why not! She replied, briefly looking down at her flashy pumps. “Mi nombre es Eugenia… gracias.” My name is Eugenia… thank you.
Over 25 years later, my father, an aging face of multicultural south-west Sydney, never tires of retelling this improbable love story to anyone willing to listen. He never skimps on the detail, and his energy is never lacking. I am often by his side as he recounts, and I enjoy it every time. His black mane is now peppered with grey, and his speech is now full of Australian colloquialisms like “bloody” and “mate” as well as more familiar Ecuadorian slang. These quirks track the lifespan of an accidental migrant who has made Australia his own. He doesn’t regret coming here. Abandoning his dreams of a better life in the United States and distancing himself further from family in Ecuador wasn’t easy. But as my father often concludes, “how could I live with myself without her… she gave me my daughters … my gold.”