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Deporting Love: A Married Couple’s Journey to Stay in the United States

On November 28, 2005, Enrique Gonzalez walked across the border to pursue a safe and prosperous life in the U.S. Afraid of gang recruitment in El Salvador and seeking to escape to a safe place with opportunities to work to help himself and his family, after two days of processing and detention, he was taken (by immigration officials) to a Texas bus station where he was left to find his way in what would become his new home, the United States of America. Thirteen years later, with a U.S. Immigration approved marriage to a citizen, Enrique is being deported.

In the January 2017 Executive Order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, the Trump administration laid out a much wider dragnet authorizing and empowering ICE in the deportation of undocumented.  Unlike the discretion of the Obama Administration, as evidenced in the 2011 Memo, which exercised a great deal of flexibility the Trump Administration's laser-sharp focus is on the numbers! Every undocumented …

Things Are Just Things ~ People & Experiences Are Everything

Things Are Just Things

People & Experiences Are Everything

Blogger - Harlon J. Wilson - Reflecting

We had some friends over last weekend for dinner. They asked, "So how is the selling of everything going?" I, having had more time to process the news of our imminent deportation, responded with a casual answer, "Oh, it's going fine," or so my lips conveyed. "You know...'things' are just 'things'," I unemotionally explained. 

Wind God - A Sculpture by Harlon J. Wilson
A neighbor whom we've grown to care a great deal about, shared with the other guests at the party of how she had become the proud owner of my handmade sculptures. I explained, "I placed the sculptures that I made years prior on the retaining wall beside the enormous dumpster we had delivered to start our clearing process. I sent a text letting her know. I thought perhaps she'd pick the one she liked as a keepsake and then toss the others into the dumpster. I was surprised to discover later, she had kept them all." I went on to tell the story of the many similar "things" I had stored and moved from place-to-place that we had already disposed of, sold, or donated to a local thrift store. 

My best friend of nearly thirty years, devastated to hear the news that I had parted with my earlier works of art, insisted, "Don't you dare throw away your artwork! These 'things' you are getting rid of may not be of much value to you under the current circumstances but, they certainly have value to the people who care about you!" The others listening in then generously offered to carve out space in their homes to store or "...use until we return someday," any other items of value we won't be taking on our long journey to our new Central American home.

The Sculpting of "Things"

On exhibit in the first home I'd owned nearly twenty years ago, behind the glass of a giant display case that, in years past, was the showcase of my father's custom-decorated cakes and freshly-baked breads, was The Wind God - one of the many treasured sculptures I had made.  Reduced to just another "thing" to be discarded before our move, The Wind God and the other sculptures once prominently displayed, later to be boxed and stored for years, had became special mementos for our precious neighbors.

Former Bakery Display Case / Sculpture Showcase
Hand-sculpted during an early morning sunrise on the beach in Clearwater, Florida, The Wind God was my attempt to capture the natural elements of the earth and the raw emotions inspired by a beautiful morning sunrise on the beach.

As with any creative endeavor, I never really know what will emerge once my hands touch the clay.  Most pieces are inspired by a combination of the emotions at the time, the location or environment, thoughts and memories, or other stand-out elements and experiences. The Wind God was no different. Fashioned from the stunning sunrise that early and breezy morning, The Wind God was born.

Armed only with the intentions to capture the natural beauty of a sunrise, I awoke early and headed to the hardware store where I purchased a 5-gallon bucket and a bag of powdered plaster. I rushed to the beach to beat the rising sun and selected the perfect spot for a private creation.  I knelt down for a moment of silent meditation to clear my mind.  For the next 15 minutes I was in the zone as I whisked the sea water, sand, shell, and dry plaster into the bucket. And, at just the right moment, and in just the right amounts of the natural ingredients, I had created a gooey-gritty mess. 

It was windy that morning on the beach and the air was surprisingly chilly. Perfectly timed in sequence with the emerging dawn, my hands had fashioned the makings of a sunrise into a time-capsule as The Wind God began took its shape. Comprised of the elements and energy of the early morning experience, the sunrise was permanently captured in the mask that emerged.

After a few years of being a proudly displayed in my first home, The Wind God and other sculptures were boxed and moved from basement-to-basement and garage-to-garage for years. Wrapped in unwanted towels, pillow cases, and crocheted blankets handmade by my granny and, right next to the box that was filled with grade-school homework and the crayola colored pages of childhood colorings she cherished for decades, the once valued sculptures, like the elementary art saved since childhood, had become nothing more than "things."  Facing our imminent and unplanned departure, and fueled by heartbreak, anger, and disappointment, my heart was heavy as I let go of the creative experiences captured in the sculptures - the "things" of my past.

The Promise of "Things"

At the dinner party I nudged, "Just think about it, everything in this room - anything you can touch or see - must go! We can only take along a couple of suitcases packed with our shoes and clothes and our two daughters (our beloved dogs)," I explained. Our friends glanced around the room in wonder of all the "things" that would soon be discarded.

Familiar with the story of the two leaded glass windows leaning against the wall - permanent fixtures in our decor - and a promise I had made to my father years prior, one friend inquired, "Even your father's windows?" Two of the most treasured family heirlooms -- even the opulent windows must go!

The two beautiful antiques were hand-me-downs from my father long before his 2015 passing. Years earlier, again sorting through "things" once cherished by my grandparents, my father and I were standing in my grandfather's garage where we had the daunting task of sifting through a lifetime of the personal possessions of hoarder.

Decades earlier my grandfather had died of a massive heart attack. My grandmother had reached the place where she could no longer keep-up with the family home that my grandfather had built years prior so my father and I handled the challenging task of sorting through the generations worth of belongings that filled the house, basement, and garage. In prep for my grandmother's inevitable move to a senior community; everything must go.

In a corner of the garage, hidden among the many tools, mowers, scrap-metals, and broken mirrors and sheets of glass, were two stunning antique windows in nearly perfect conditions, save only for the weathered wood that made them so unique. I immediately saw their potential. I had to have them.  In order to claim the prize, I made a promise to my father that day - a promise I now am uncertain if I can (or should) keep.  

In recognition that I would likely move to different homes in the years to follow, and concerned that I might incorporate the windows into the construction of my new home soon to built in downtown Indy (a custom home he had a hunch I'd one day sell), the windows would only become mine under one condition; a promise that I was never to part with the cherished, "things."

The stunning beveled glass windows, time capsules of days passed, were salvaged by my grandfather who had preserved them from the demolition of one of the enormous farm-style homes he would take apart by hand in a downtown Indianapolis neighborhood.

For years, my grandpa, (known around town as "Pop"), worked for a salvage yard or "wrecking company," as they were called at the time.  Tearing down decadent and enormous homes by hand to save the lumber, hardware, and other building materials of value was their main bread and butter.  Over the many years he had to have demolished hundreds of homes as evidenced by the many boxes, bins, and crates of etched crystal door knobs and antique hinges, latches, light fixtures, and other uncommon jewels he and my father had saved.  

Father & Son - Raymond & Harlon Wilson 
A hoarder himself, my father saw value in almost any tangible "thing" that others simply could not see as more than common trash. Some of his most treasured possessions (i.e. coffee cans filled with [used] rusty ole nails waiting to be straightened for future reuse), held value in that they meant something only to him.  The windows, however, we're an uncommon find with sentimental and monetary value.

I became the proud owner and protector of these valued "things". The two ornate windows, saved decades prior at the hands of my grandfather and cherished later by my father, became mine for safekeeping. With an innate skill for blending the old with the new, the windows - "just things" - became central in the contemporary decor of each of my future homes.

As I shared the story with our friends at dinner, I watched as their hearts sunk. I stood awashed in emotions at the notion of more of the personal possession that I'd be letting go. I continued with the same mantra I've been telling myself since we downsized nearly a year ago from our four bedroom -four car garage home on the north side of the city, to our new smaller home on the east, "Things are just things," I chanted to myself.

While there is much truth to the seemingly emotionless statement, the process of "letting go" we're currently going through, has inspired a curiosity for why we humans grow so attached to the things that we surround ourselves with. Why do we place such value in the inanimate objects we hold so dear? Perhaps they may be charged with distant memories of relationships and experiences we have shared.

The "Do-Something-with-Someday" of "Things"

Earlier this month, we rented (and filled to its top), a dumpster with much of the unnecessary, "going-to-do-something-with-someday things" that had been moved from our last house to be packed into the basement and garage of the new, until further sorting could be done. A truckload of valuable "things" we likely wouldn't sell was donated to a local thrift store.  Another truckload will soon be ready to go. 

In a few short weeks, my sister-in-law will be visiting on her next trip from Tennessee. She'll be taking with her the many cases of photos that are in storage in our attic; generations of family photos ranging from the ole black and white chroma-plates to pics on photo-CD's of modern day. I'd hoped to one day digitally scan the thousands of photos to be stored in the cloud (secure internet storage) for others to enjoy.  I even had fantasies of one day (perhaps when I've retired) exploring ways to connect the photos to some genealogy sites like or others as I held a dream of connecting relatives and others from around the globe to the online resource to help with identification of the various unknown people and places in the pictures. Facing imminent deportation, time is not on my side to complete this future task.

I posted several items for sale on social media including the new aerial drone I had bought to capture photos and videos of the progress of neighborhood revitalization efforts that are just getting underway.

A Realtor, investor, developer, and homeowner in the area, I was deeply involved in future planning.  A Founder and President of the My Christian Park Neighborhood Association, the areas newest and most progressive group of visionary neighbors, I had hopes of documenting the historical transformation of the Christian Park neighborhood and adjacent communities where Enrique and I had established our new home.

I sold the cool new industrial desk we'd bought for our newly remodeled office.  A strategic piece of functional furniture I had hoped to use for staging my future direct-mail marketing efforts. On that desk I envisioned,  designing, printing, sorting and stacking of hundreds of mail pieces that I would have sent to promote our home remodeling business and my real estate practice. While the desk would have been a handy work surface, and our marketing efforts a potentially successful business strategy, it was simply not meant to be as our life is taking us elsewhere. These "things" we can not take must be sold.

In addition to the desk, we sold Mrs."Momma" Jenkins' leather living room furniture. Once the adored possession of my Freshman high teacher (commonly known as one of my many Moms), the chocolate-colored stylish furniture became the cherished resting place of the first-floor living room in our last home. Saved until we could work it into one of the rooms of our new home, the furniture is gone.  As I watched the furniture carried away, another page was turned in the various chapters of my life.

The "Things" of Greater Value

After putting it off as long as I could, I visited the coin appraisers this week. In just over two hours, they sorted through and appraised the massive coin collection that my father and grandmother had amassed for more than half a century. The cases of pennies, nickels, dimes, silver dollars and odd coins from around the globe netted just $2570.

Minute-by-minute, time seemed to stand still as I waited and watched the pawn-shop-style appraisers sorting through the various medicine bottles, envelopes, and paper rolls to arrive at a price they'd be willing to "offer."

Selling the last remaining "things" of value felt as if I was selling the family's soul. For just $2570, the countless hours and immeasurable energy my grandmother put into identifying, rolling, labeling, and placing the various precious metals into their appropriate coin-collectors' books were sold.

The collection, safely guarded in more recent years by my father, became a source of contention in his final days battling dementia as he became increasingly convinced that his ex-wife had stolen the bulk of the valued collection. For just $2570, I let go of dad's anger, sleepless nights and worry. Hardly worth the dollars, we'd now receive, the collection is now gone - all but one particularly unique find that is.

Among the bottles, rolls, and cigar boxes were discovered a single silver dollar coin with its front and back side worn away from the many years of being carried in my father's pocket.

I remembered it distinctly, the uncommon pocket dweller that was often paired with a cats-eye marble, were memorable charms to him. The "thing" - now a worthless piece of metal - was the only coin I decided to keep from the countless treasured coins. The find of a coin without a face became the "thing" with greater value as I simply couldn't bring myself to part with his keepsake. Dad's worn out piece of change had now become my own pocket dweller; charged with memories of him. I am rich with memories of the old man and his worthless metal token every time my hand hits my pocket. 

The Selling and Shredding of "Things"

Eight cases of books - a handful signed by their authors - were sold today. Two huge boxes filled with hundreds of music CD's also had to go! For the bargain price of just $32, Half Price Books paid less than "half-cents" for each treasured item that I will surely miss - or will I?

While I typically would've given these "things" to friends or donated such ordinary "things" to charity, ours is the charity most in need as we are trying to scrape together every dollar to afford the rapidly approaching move.

More than 10 bins and boxes of papers met their demise this week as I hired a mobile shredder to come to our home to take care of the dreaded deed.

Gone are the income taxes filed every year since my first job as a biscuit maker for a Speedway restaurant at the ripe-ole-age of 15.

From 2001 to 2004, I realized a dream of finally attending college. An almost "non-human" period of laser-sharp focus, I blitzed through university courses earning both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Media Arts and Computer Science with a minor in Sociology. I'd hoped to one day become a professor to research, write, and teach on topics relating to technologies impacts in society. Bins filled to the top with prior assignments, speeches, and papers are now down the road in the shredder.

In less of an academic, yet more of a Spiritual context, I spent a lifetime preserving content on the topics of synchronicity, coincidence, and chance. Fueled by a vision of one day conducting in-depth research to understand the many inexplicable synchronicities that I've experienced throughout my own life, I held on to a collection of personal journals, books, research papers, and news clippings on the topic. 

Saved for my retirement days, when I'd finally have the chance to pursue a dream of authorship on such topics, all but the journals were shred. 

From 2004-2011 I was the proud Founder, President, and CEO of a bleeding-edge technology company, Medical Animatics. One of the first creative studios in the nation to produce high-end 3D-animation for the medical and life sciences marketplace; we were true visionaries far ahead of our time. Inspired to leverage the technologies I'd just learned about in my college days, I wanted to teach patients about risky medical treatments so I invented one of the first Internet-based, 3D-animated, interactive learning and e-informed consent platforms for healthcare providers. 

Carried away on the shredder's truck were 7-years of my invented design specifications and drawings, programming code for our proprietary technologies, human resources, and payroll records, as well as endless files of client projects. 

Gone in their entirety, destroyed on the back of a truck, were the "things" -- the many records, documents, research and writing, class assignments, company developments, napkin drawings (the dreams of an entrepreneur), and references of a future author. "Things are just things," or so I continue to tell myself.

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Letting Go of Things - Holding On to Memories

Standing at the kitchen counter surrounded by friends at our dinner party that evening, I attempted to speak of the challenging lesson I am currently working my way through. Wedged into the otherwise successful lives of my husband and me, are lessons about letting go. "Its all about the relationships, experiences, and the time we share with others," I expressed from the heart.

As I find myself preparing for our imminent deportation at the hands of an oppressive government that is tearing apart tens of thousands of families across the country,  I am slowly finding my way to peace in the discovery that "things truly are just things." Faced with the evils of an unprecedented organized effort of "white color ethnic cleansing" that has unleashed the most unthinkable human rights violations against undocumented residents, we have no choice but to let the "things" once treasured go.  Families are being torn apart, just the same as my husband has been ordered to leave the country, at the unjust hands of a whitewashed Presidency. There are no words to express how it feels to be letting go of the "Things that are only things." 

As I work each day to box, sell, give away, or donate our collection of possessions in the home we recently built for ourselves -- as I wind down our small business and wrap up all of our affairs in prep for our departure -- I sometimes can't help but to fight back the tears. The emotions of sorting through, and letting go of, a lifetime of "things" charged with such memories, is both liberating and, at times, it's simply heavy.

The sculptures once made by the hands of an aspiring artist, the windows bound by a promise between a father and a son, photos, furniture, coins, books, music CD's, student projects and papers of the proud academician in me, bleeding edge designs of the entrepreneur of the past, and the journals and sources of an aspiring author of the future are now all gone! "Things are just things," has become my mantra.

As Enrique and I turn our attention towards finding a home outside of the U.S., the inspiring lyrics of the box office smash The Greatest Showman says it best...

"There's a house we can build
Every room inside is filled
with things from far away
The special things I compile
Each one there to make you smile
on a rainy day"

Perhaps when we settle wherever it is our lives are taking us, will be the special "things" we compile, that one day will make us smile, as we look back and remember all the many incredible memories of the people, places, and juicy experiences of the past. But,  one thing is for certain, no matter where we are on this great big planet, one of the greatest possessions we will always have, far outweighing the value of any "thing" we could possibly take along on our journey, is that we have each other and the unconditional love, support, and memories of our friends and family. 

In an ironic moment of synchronicity, almost as if it was meant to be, just as I was wrapping up the conclusion to this post (while streaming music in my headphones), the following song began to play. An ambient piece that halfway through includes the astonishing voice-over perfectly times for the closing.

 "You're an interesting species. An interesting mix. You're capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you're not. See, in all our searching, the only "thing" we've ever found that makes the emptiness (the absences of "things") bearable, is each other.  

                                                                                                                  ~Astronomer Carl Sagan

Could we have ended any better than that! A synchronicity (a "gentle persuasion," I'll one day write about in my book on the topic) to let me know we're on the right track. 

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