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A Fresh Start for Susan Bonna

Susan Bonna Self Storage Stories
Written by Adam Bowles

Susan Bonna is a native of Jamaica who works as a live-in nanny for Orthodox Jewish families.

"It's a very interesting culture," she said. "They don't mix milk and meats. They use separate utensils for that. For some who can afford to, they use separate stoves."

Susan, 32, is living with a family in New Jersey after spending six months with a family in Boston. She gives mothers time to rest after they have just had their babies. Sometimes the nannies are hired to stay for two weeks; sometimes for several months.

"The babies are lovable," she said. "They are awesome. Yes, they scream and cry, but they teach patience."

"I try not to bond," Susan added. "I have to allow the mom to develop that bond. But at the end of the day I cannot help but feel somewhat attached."

Susan's own 5-year-old daughter, Amelia, still lives in Jamaica with Amelia's father and grandmother. When Susan's relationship with the father ended after 15 years, she decided to join extended family in the United States two-and-a-half years ago.

She lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Queens, and was visiting our store at 186-02 Jamaica Ave. in Queens to retrieve some of her belongings for her stay with an Orthodox Jewish family in New Jersey.

"I wanted a fresh start," she said of her migration to the United States. "I could see my way out financially better here than there. I wanted to set the foundation for my daughter. What I would make back home in a month I would make here in a week-and-a-half."

Susan regularly visits Amelia, and Amelia has visited Susan here in New York.

In between those visits, the mother and daughter video chat each other three times a day — "when she wakes up in the morning before she goes to school, after school and bedtime."

Their conversation this morning featured Amelia complaining about the rain and not wanting to go to school. But Susan successfully encouraged her to go. "It was like a little pep talk," she said.

Three weeks ago, Susan cried when she thought of her daughter attending a ceremony marking the end of the school year.

"It's the fact that I have a child and she is so sensible," Susan said. "She understands. She communicates. It's going to be her first graduation. And I'm floored to see her come this far. I was really filled with joy."

Photo via John M. White

Susan says she stays occupied with work. When she was in Boston, she was able to reunite with a fellow Jamaican that she had become friends with first on Facebook. Susan met her in person when the woman showed she had checked into Brooklyn.

Her relatively new life in the United States, her time away from her daughter, and her job that takes her into unfamiliar homes and unfamiliar cultures can all be challenging for Susan. But she said she is happy to take on that challenge for the sake of her daughter's future.

"It's either I sink or I swim," she said. "And I'm not going to sink so I have to swim."

She would love to return to Jamaica one day and build a home for her and her daughter with the money she has saved working here.

In the meantime, she is looking forward to her next visit to Jamaica on June 14. She didn't appreciate her country's beauty until she left. "I am going to take the opportunity to explore," Susan said.

About the author

Adam Bowles

Adam Bowles is the owner of Not With Ink, a digital media company in Jewett City, Conn. He spent 15 years as a reporter and editor for The Bulletin in Norwich, Conn., and has freelanced for such publications as The New York Times. His latest project is called The World in One Square Mile, a series of on-the-spot interviews for short profiles that demonstrate the need to take interest in others, listen to their stories and discover what unites us all. He and his wife, Luisa, have two daughters.

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