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My First Christmas in the U.S. – Holding On To Special Memories

My family and I arrived to the United States from Mexico in 1997, with just the clothes on our back and a handful of personal belongings. As a family, we tried to adapt to what seemed like a new world, our life in a new country.

This new life was challenging. We didn’t have much but we managed. The holidays were no exception. While I’m certain it was no easy task, my parents still found a way to make the festive days special with the little that we had.

Simple Life

My family and I lived in a friend’s basement. It was a small place but we made it our home. It consisted of a one bedroom, one bath, and a shared kitchen/living room space.

Our one bed (which my dad had built) was shared between four of us. Most of our furniture, our clothes, and different items throughout our home were from second-hand stores. Anything else that was needed, my dad would build it with material that he would save/recover. He was (and still is) quite the creative handy-man. (My dad has always believed in saving everything (yes…everything) because he claims it all can be reused. His craftiness was always helpful growing up.)

We didn’t have anything fancy or over the top….sure it was challenging at times but we had the basic things we needed. Our life was simple and it taught us to be grateful.

Our Special Tree

Christmas in Mexico was a time of the year that we would spend with our extended families. We would enjoy “las posadas” (processions) and all the beautiful Mexican traditions. The holidays spent with family was what we missed the most. We were far from the people, places, and celebrations we loved.

Our first Christmas here in the U.S. was hard. We didn’t have much and knew that the holidays were going to be a bit different for us. With money being tight, there was no Christmas tree in sight. The magic of Christmas seemed to be missing.

My dad knew he had to somehow still make Christmas magical so he got to work. He cleared out the few items in our living room, started hammering a few nails on the wall, and with a string of Christmas lights, he made a tree. That’s right! Our very own tree.

Our tree wasn’t like everyone else’s. It wasn’t a real, big, green tree. It didn’t have fancy ornaments or gifts underneath it. In my eyes, our small tree was magical – it was bright, colorful, and special.

Holding on to Special Memories

During the holiday season, I think back to that first Christmas here in the U.S. We didn’t have much, we didn’t have a big family or many friends. It wasn’t a Christmas filled with expensive toys, fancy dinners, or lavish parties. That year was challenging for my family but we made it.

My family had come far and we were thankful for all we had, even if it wasn’t very much. We had each other and that’s what mattered the most.

We made the best out of what we had and today, we cherish all the beautiful memories. I don’t remember what Santa brought my sister and me that year and the years after, but the one memory I will always keep is that of the special tree my dad made for us. It’s something I will hold forever.

We might have started with very little but have gained so much throughout our journey here. For that, I am forever grateful. Grateful for the memories. Grateful for my family and for the LOVE that is shared.

My First Christmas in the U.S. - Holding On To Special Memories

Betzy Valdez

Betzy Valdez originally from Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico, came to the United States with her family 22 years ago, chasing the well-known “American Dream”. Greeley, Colorado is where her and her family have resided over the past 22 years and it’s a place, she calls home. She has been married for 11 years to her supportive husband Javi and together they have three beautiful little girls and an American Bully named Bella. She is also the founder of B. Empowered, a space created to encourage others to be the change, to be empowered to be the world-changers, the difference-makers, the heart-changers. Through Betzy’s own journey, she continues to be brave by sharing her story, her truths, her mess. Instead of allowing setbacks in her life to hold her back, she is determined to use her mess as her message of hope, strength and belonging. Her calling in life in to encourage and empower others in their own journey, regardless of color, race, religion, or legal status. She believes we must all have a vision, not division. Betzy plans to continue her journey as an empowerment and motivational speaker as well as an active community volunteer, leader and advocate for immigrant and refugee rights. She is extremely excited for this new opportunity and hopes to connect with others.

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