Each night, we’re inviting audience members at American Night to share a story in a bottle. We’ll gather the stories and share each night’s collection here.
Here’s the question they’re answering: On the bottle, write a one-sentence story of a departure, a journey, or an arrival in which you or a family member left something behind, crossed a border, or started a new life.
Moving to Uganda for the semester, the airline damaged my bad. I waited by the conveyor belt for my luggage, but it never arrived. Finally I see a clear plastic bag with my belongings, but my chocolate was missing! Airport officials were spotted eating a very similar looking Hershey’s symphony bar later.
Like bees following the scent of honey, we swarmed to the meeting spot. The spot is a barred section of the border, barred like a jail cell. I was told it was to keep us safe but learned we were being kept out. I am a criminal in an unpromised land. I’m guilty until proven innocent. I was desperate to see him, to touch him, to see how his facial stubble looked like a trail of ants. Never fully touching him. How could I be close to him when that damn fence made him look like a criminal. Maybe I looked like a criminal in his eyes. I kissed him on the back of his hand, hoping for forgiveness, he in return kissed my forehead, telling me to be good. He then performed a motion I’ve only seen my grandmother do. He blessed me and kissed my forehead. Until next year.
H-1 visa in hand, I embarked for the land of dreams with a hastily thrown together suitcase (I had 2 days notice), and my guitar. My guitar got a little smashed en route, but not my dreams
I got held up for hours at the border because my first name was spelled incorrectly on my passport
This is not my story, but everyday my friend’s student who is in 4th grade, crosses the border from Tijuana to San Diego.
Traveling by buses in Central America, crossed the border between Honduras and El Salvador by walking across the bridge between the two countries
My late husband refugeed out of Czechoslovakia in the early 80s, walking over the Alps into Austria. He spent 6 months in a refugee camp in Austria, then came to California sponsored by a friend of his father. He was a wild and crazy Czechoslovakian guy, but loved American. Even when he made fun of it
Dear Cal Shakes, My wife is leaving me, after fourteen years of life together in California, for New Jersey, and I am not sure if I can live up to the image of a “California girl” without her help picking out shoes
Crossing the border into Romania in 1982, the guards, seeing that I was an American, said, “do you have any guns, bibles, pot, or playboys?”—then they took my car apart
At 25, I drove from East Coast to West, ostensibly for school, but really to leave my heterosexual self behind and come out as queer
Having left her homeland of historicized Czars, palaces, and political world renown, my wife left Russia five years ago, foregoing family, possessions, and the safety of familiarity to pursue a life in the US with this man who vowed his eternal love to fulfill her happiness
My wife and I left the upper-middle class expectation of living in a large single family home, sold/liquidated more than ½ of all our possessions and moved to a simpler life in a 695 square foot one bedroom condo
1963, the year President Kennedy was shot, I sat in class and, having no vocabulary, I did not understand the crying and tears of my new classmates after the PA announcement that day in November
I grew up 7 miles from the border, near San Diego. The national dialog so often vilifies Hispanic people. But there are so many “legal immigrant” And regardless of status we are all just people…
My grandma moved here from Italy with her parents and was given my grandpa in marriage when she was 16 because he was a grocer and could feed all of them
I crossed an ocean to a far off land of war and found a friend who would only live a short time
Grandfather, grandmother, uncle, and sweet dog Rocco! All in 2 years. How do I grieve, how do I celebrate life, how do I carry their spirit
We need more walls and fences, like the ones between West and East Germany. It held up so well 🙂
When I was in high school my dad lost his job. We had to move and couldn’t afford a house. But we used to have a sailboat, so we bought another one, 43’ long. We sold everything and lived on the boat for 1 ½ years
From Austria to escape the Holocaust in 1938, to start a legacy of Jewish mothers
Crossing from Hungary into what was then Yugoslavia, our car was heavily searched and we 4 22 year olds were surprised and concerned for our safety….-1979
From Merced to Bay, the valley to the mountain—no hot summer nights
I remember the extraordinary security while travelling from Norway to France one week after September 11, 2001.
Right now I am leaving middle school to go to high school. I am 14 now, Caucasian, and love to read books. I have no idea what other people go through to get here to America, but I do know how hard it is to leave places, people, and ideas behind. To be honest I am scared. Most of my friends are going to a different school. All I know is that someday I’ll be laughing at these memories (Laughing happily because of me)
Always bring your kids’ birth certificate, even if you are just crossing from Buffalo to go to Niagara Falls in the winter. The border guard was only assured after asking my daughter, “Is this your mom?”
The surgeon said “it’s a girl!”
My grandparents were told to take one suitcase and report to the train station where they were put in a cattle car and deported from Germany to Poland
Leaving Poland, crossing an ocean to escape conscription and a baby boy is born in New York…healthy, happy, and safe
I moved to California in 1980 and said goodbye to a sad, unhappy life, and hello to sunshine
I travelled to the land of bluegrass–Kentucky—and was disappointed that the grass was green. I lived there for 12 years and never saw a blue blade.
I was amazed when I learned that my maternal great, great grandfather lied about his age so he could join the Civil War, where he joined the US cavalry to fight Sioux Indians. He was from Ireland where his land had been taken.
Dear Cal Shakes, Ian says that I should include the part about my husband telling me, very unhelpfully, that “everyone is leaving you—at least you still have me”
I left WI in 1983 to come to CA with my boyfriend to start a new job and life, crossing many state borders in the process. Best move I ever made
I am 19 and I went as an exchange student to Colombia. I didn’t speak Spanish very well but was staying with a family who only had one member who somewhat spoke English. To say the least…it required me to adapt quickly
At the age of 8, my mother woke me up one morning to inform me that we were packing the car and driving from Detroit to Los Angeles to build a new home. She had had it with my father. Left him and started a new life for us all
My mother arrived as an immigrant from Mexico in 1968. She was a lawyer, a poet, a Spanish literature teacher, but could not support her four children in Mexico. She died of cancer in 1972 having brought all her children to the US. My baby sister is still in Mexico.