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更新时间:2017-6-5 18:30:37 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The professors’ home was a telescope to how the other (more affluent) half lived



Jonathan Ababiy

乔纳森·阿巴比(Jonathan Ababiy)

At age 6, I remember the light filled openness of the house, how the whir of my mother’s vacuum floated from room to room. At 9, I remember how I used to lounge on the couch and watch Disney cartoons on the sideways refrigerator of a TV implanted in a small cave in the wall. At 12, I remember family photographs of the Spanish countryside hanging in every room. At 14, I remember vacuuming each foot of carpet in the massive house and folding pastel shirts fresh out of the dryer.


I loved the house. I loved the way the windows soaked the house with light, a sort of bleach against any gloom. I loved how I could always find a book or magazine on any flat surface.


But the vacuum my mother used wasn’t ours. We never paid for cable. The photographs weren’t of my family. The carpet I vacuumed I only saw once a week, and the pastel shirts I folded I never wore. The house wasn’t mine. My mother was only the cleaning lady, and I helped.


My mother and father had come as refugees almost twenty years ago from the country of Moldova. My mother worked numerous odd jobs, but once I was born she decided she needed to do something different. She put an ad in the paper advertising house cleaning, and a couple, both professors, answered. They became her first client, and their house became the bedrock of our sustenance. Economic recessions came and went, but my mother returned every Monday, Friday and occasional Sunday.


She spends her days in teal latex gloves, guiding a blue Hoover vacuum over what seems like miles of carpet. All the mirrors she’s cleaned could probably stack up to be a minor Philip Johnson skyscraper. This isn’t new for her. The vacuums and the gloves might be, but the work isn’t. In Moldova, her family grew gherkins and tomatoes. She spent countless hours kneeling in the dirt, growing her vegetables with the care that professors advise their protégés, with kindness and proactivity. Today, the fruits of her labor have been replaced with the suction of her vacuum.

她整日戴着天青色的乳胶手套,操着蓝色的胡佛(Hoover)吸尘器,给仿佛有几英里长的地毯除尘。她擦过的所有镜子没准可以堆叠成那种由菲利普·约翰逊(Philip Johnson)打造的亮闪闪的摩天大楼。这对她来说并不新鲜。吸尘器和手套或许有些新鲜,但这份工作并非如此。在摩尔多瓦,她家里种有黄瓜和西红柿。她曾花无数个小时跪在泥土里,以教授指导学生的用心程度、以仁慈和积极主动的态度侍弄她的蔬菜。现在,她劳作的蔬果被吸尘器取而代之。

The professors’ home was a telescope to how the other (more affluent) half lived. They were rarely ever home, so I saw their remnants: the lightly crinkled New York Times sprawled on the kitchen table, the overturned, half-opened books in their overflowing personal library, the TV consistently left on the National Geographic channel. I took these remnants as a celebrity-endorsed path to prosperity. I began to check out books from the school library and started reading the news religiously.


Their home was a sanctuary for my dreams. It was there I, as a glasses-wearing computer nerd, read about a mythical place called Silicon Valley in Bloomberg Businessweek magazines. It was there, as a son of immigrants, that I read about a young senator named Barack Obama, the child of an immigrant, aspiring to be the president of the United States. The life that I saw through their home showed me that an immigrant could succeed in America, too. Work could be done with one’s hands and with one’s mind. It impressed on me a sort of social capital that I knew could be used in America. The professors left me the elements to their own success, and all my life I’ve been trying to make my own reaction.

他们的家是为我的梦想提供庇护之处。在那里,我这个戴着眼镜的电脑迷从《彭博商业周刊》(Bloomberg Businessweek)上知道了一个名叫硅谷的神秘地方。在那里,我这个移民的儿子读到了一个名叫贝拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)的年轻参议员立志做美国总统的消息——他也是移民之子。我从他们家看到过的生活告诉我,在美国,移民也可以成功。工作可以用双手来完成,也可以用头脑来完成。它让我对一种社会资本有了深刻的概念,我知道在美国可以使用这种资本。两位教授让我看到了他们取得成功的要素,我这一生都在试图做出自己的反应。

Ultimately, the suction of the vacuum is what sustains my family. The squeal of her vacuum reminds me why I have the opportunity to drive my squealing car to school. I am where I am today because my mom put an enormous amount of labor into the formula of the American Dream. It’s her blue Hoover vacuums that hold up the framework of my life. Someday, I hope my diploma can hold up the framework of hers.