#2. The Big Finale: Crossing into the U.S. from Mexico
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At the Mexico-U.S. border, my mom scouted for another coyote. She was even considering trying to cross the Rio Grande on a giant tire. Tubing is a great way to beat the heat in the summer, but it's a somewhat less great way for small children to sneak across a national border. If we'd tried, we might have ended up being a few more of the over 2,000 illegal immigrants who died crossing between 1999 and 2012.
"Actually, the PC term is 'migrant.'"
-person who didn't almost die crossing the border and whose opinion totally matters
When derring-do ended up looking a little too daring, we eventually employed the oldest and most effective coyotes of all: "walking" and "asking nicely." We made our way to Ciudad Juarez, and I told my mom to let me do the talking: See, my mom has a very thick accent, but my English has been pretty much accentless since I was in third grade. We came to the border crossing and I strolled up to the cop with my family in tow and told him we wanted to go home. I said "please." He asked if we had any food that we needed to declare, I said no, and we were in America. He didn't even ask for any paperwork, maybe because I didn't have an accent, my siblings were both white and blond, and my black mom looked like she could have been our maid or nanny or something.
After all that, the big climactic crossing ended up being: "Hey, can I come into America?" and "Sure, so long as you don't bring any weird food in here."
"That bean could breed and eat our corn!"
#1. Life After You've Finally Arrived
Once we got to the states, we hopped around, attending three different schools in a year so no one would catch on to us. Sometimes when we switched schools the administrators would want to hold me back a grade because of soft-serve racism, but whatever. When I was 12, my dad's lawyers finally tracked us down. I went to live with him, and now I'm in a pretty good place. My mom is still illegal, though. She was deported once I was found, and she keeps trying to hop the border.
Jack Hollingsworth/Blend Images/Getty
Stop trying to bring me food. They won't let you through with it.
I'm engaged to be married to an awesome guy with an American fairy tale background: parents still together, upper middle class, rocking the headband of patriotism since he was a baby. When we talk about our childhoods, it gets awkward sometimes. Oh, you played video games? I ran through rivers and played in garbage and stole fruit from trees. I'm not complaining; I think it was an awesome time. But everyone I tell feels bad for me, and weirdly enough, that's kind of the worst part.
Related Reading: Cracked talks to people with all kinds of fascinating life experiences, including these garbagemen who know all your filthy secrets. We sat down with the accidental accomplice to a mass murder, and also heard the stories of a male porn star. This woman who was raised in a fundamentalist cult told us her story, and if you'd like to tell us YOUR story send an email here.