Dreaming In America
By Stan Vasile
My name is Vasile. You say it, Vah-SEE-lee. I was born in a small village in Europe. I had a beautiful young life, taking my sheep to eat grass in the valley. Then my family moved to the city for my education, for a better life, for a "dream." They were working hard to make us a beautiful house. I was put in school to become a mechanic.
After I finished high school, I decided to become a hairdresser. After one year, I was in a hair show and became the hairdresser for a fashion show. I met my wife in Paris at the hair show. We had two children, Cipriany and Manuela. At four years old they were speaking Italian, Greek, and English.
I was famous. I had everything-house, cars, big clientele. Everybody knew Vasile. But I had a dream like my dad. Nice to move to a bigger country, to do my best for my family, to do better in my business. In 1980 my dream came true. I moved to the most powerful and beautiful country in· the world. I mean, everybody in the world wants to come to America.
We came to Tucson, Arizona. "Old Tucson" is where John Wayne made cowboy movies.
In Europe, I served my country in the army, then I started to work out in body building, then I did some boxing. I was in perfect shape.
When I got my citizenship, I told them all my life I wanted to be like Charlie Bronson. I wanted to change my name to Charlie Bronson. They said, "Your name is unique. Don't change it." So my name is Vasile.
My life in America was beautiful. I worked for the best beauty salons in Tucson, like Great Waves for Tim and Mario. They used to call me Jose Eber from California. I used to drive their limousine to Paloma, where they had a beauty salon, to style some movie star's hair.
After that, I worked at another famous hair salon in Tucson, Gadabout. I remember when their educator, Lee, checked my coloring, highlights; haircuts, he said, "This is the first European hairdresser I've seen in Tucson. He has talent. We need him in Canyon Ranch." I was hired right away and had lots of customers. My dream was complete.
I cut hair for lots of high class clientele in Canyon Ranch, when one day someone said, "Wouldn't it be great to have your own salon?" So I opened my own salon, European Hair by Vasile, where I had huge success with high class clientele challenging my talent, asking for new hair styles and colors. I was so happy, and my family was so proud of me. My wife, Lidia, and I went to a hair show in California. We were having fun with our job and our exclusive customers.
At a hair show in Phoenix I used my wife for a model and gave fantastic hair style. We took second place, so we were on top of the world. I thought, My dream is immense, it's too much. Even my family said they thought I had a star in my forehead from God. I told them, "I think it is from Pope Paul. He blessed my family for good luck in America. I have to go see him."
I could not learn English. I had 200 homework papers hanging from wall. My teacher said, "Don't worry. You are like a soccer ball: the more you fall, the more you bounce, up and up."
I said, "All right. You're right." But nothing stuck in my head until the day I learned a song. Then he taught me this way every day. I spent my time drinking wine, feeling fine, like in Italy.
Anyway, my dream came true. When my children, Cipriany and Manuela, were 10 and 11, my wife, Lidia, gave me the biggest news of my life: "I think I'm three months pregnant." So on December 5,1990 we had a baby born in America- Nicolas. Life is better than a dream.
My family is doing great. My hair salon is very famous in all America because we have many snowbirds who come in the winter for the good weather. Every customer knows my family.
I was joking when I got my citizenship. They asked me why I came to America. I said, "Anything can happen in America. I want one of my children to become President of the USA." They said that's not possible because they were not born in America. Now, after ten years, we have Nicolas. The snowbirds call me from all over the USA to let me know they're coming in for vacation, and they ask me, "How's President Nicolas?" He has the same name as the French President.
My daughter, Manuela, wanted to go to Virginia Military Institute. In 1956 they took only boys. So my little girl made history, and another dream unexpectedly came true. Manuela was an A student in high school. She played soccer, another hobby of mine. I'm 59 years old and still play. She worked out with me, did kick boxing, running, tennis in school. I think, She will be okay. After four years at Virginia Military Institute, she graduated and joined Air Force Intelligence. Now my youngest, Nicolas, is in college studying computer science. So the dream goes on and on.
I have my business and my family because Pam from Gadabout gave me the courage. I told her, "I don't know anything about business." She said, "You know how to cut hair beautifully. This is the main thing." So my little girl runs my business. Lidia and I cut the hair and pay the bills. Taxes are not a problem. It's all a beautiful dream.
All the time I say, like John Kennedy, "Do not ask what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." With my accent, I still feel like an immigrant, but this country was made from immigrants, so I do my best for my country. We're the best because we are first to help other countries when they're in trouble.
With this economy I try to do my best to keep my business running. I use my savings to pay my bills. But my dream is starting to slow down. My wife, Lidia, and I work harder to help the economy. Lidia has had two operations, one in February and one in March. I hate to ask for help, but we filed for ACCESS and government help, and someone made a mistake. They proved the one in March, but skipped the one in February.
Because Lidia has an accent, it seems like DES (Department of Economic Security) wants to play games with her. When the economy is so bad, people start to hate each other. One day a Chinese lady was talking with the woman at the desk, and after she left they were talking about her. Lidia started to go there 2-3 days a week. One lady told her, "You need this paper." Another lady said she didn't need that paper. I think they just like to make people more sick, more depressed. Lidia called John McCain, Gabrielle Giffords, President Obama. The only person who called back was Gabrielle Giffords.
One day, we went to give them more papers, and Lidia asked if her case was ready. The lady said, "No, you don't have a chance. Pay the bill." But we do not give up. Life is full of surprises. We live for our dream. Like a soccer ball, life is ups and downs.
When customers come, we stay positive. We make them beautiful, we put smiles on their faces, we give them more energy. I do not want to treat them the way DES treats people.
I tell all my customers that life is like skiing: you go up, you have fun, you go down, you have fun. When the problems come, they make us stronger and more aware. And the dreams are beautiful, the dreams are from God.
Reprinted from "Oasis Journal 2011 Stories, Poems and Essays by Writers Over 50," Leila Joiner, editor, 2011. Photo: Stan Vasile.