Recently, my mom apologized to me for not allowing me to attend a prestigious, private high school I had been accepted to. Mind you, I graduated from high school a long time ago... ahem, almost 30 years ago. She also told me that the dreams and goals I would write down in my notebooks as a little girl (and still do to this day) scared her. They scared her because she was sure these dreams wouldn't come true. Not because she doubted me or my abilities, but because these dreams and goals were for other people. Not for people like us. They were dreams bigger than she ever dreamed. As my mother, she didn't want to see me disappointed. These conversations with my mom brought to mind that I am one of those people who hold their parents accountable for how my life has turned out.
My parents married very young and had me, their firstborn, as teenagers. They had four kids, which meant they had to work hard and they had to work a lot of hours. We didn't have a nanny to take us to the park or drive us to play dates. We never went to summer camp, we didn't get all the latest gadgets and toys. Going out to eat was a BIG deal and didn't happen often. When we did go out to eat, it wasn't at fancy restaurants. We never had the big, fancy birthday parties at some jumpy house place. We did not go on exotic vacations.
I cannot even imagine being a parent as a teenager. I had a hard enough time just being a teenager and even a harder time being a parent now. My parents did their best for us. We spent time after school at our grandparent's house. Nana would cook whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. She was our short order cook and she loved every minute of spoiling us. I don't remember seeing Nana sit down often. Nana would sit with us at the kitchen table while we did our homework. Just to sit with us. She would share stories of when they were younger, which now I wish I had listened closer to and remembered more of. I guess when you are a kid you can't even imagine a day without your grandparents and the thought of a day when they will be gone isn't even a distant thought.
While some kids were off at summer camp, my parents packed the tents, the four of us and our friends into the car to go camping. We spent days walking in the woods, climbing mountains, swimming in ponds, fishing, toasting marshmallows, singing songs and cooking hot dogs for dinner on an open fire. In the winter these ponds we swam in became our ice rinks. My mom would help my sister and I make pretty yarn pom poms for our ice skates. My dad was the fastest skater I'd ever seen. My mom amazed me by being able to do a figure eight and skate backwards. On snowy days, we'd all load onto the family toboggan and slide down hills that seemed like mountains with excitement and delight! There was always plenty of hot chocolate and toast when we got home.
The countless cookouts and family picnics were better than any five-star restaurant. Weekend breakfasts were full of our favorite -- toasted Syrian bread and eggs in the oven. No diner could compete!
Birthday parties were at home with our entire crazy extended family who love us no matter what and our very special best friends -- not our whole class. We had homemade birthday cakes, played pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and other classic party games.
Our entire crazy extended family were always at everything. Every birthday party, Sunday dinners, holidays, first communions, good report card celebrations and even just any old Tuesday or Wednesday. Always there. Always loving us, no matter what.
Those goals and dreams of mine that scared my mom... I reached them and all my dreams came true. My mom never told me that she was afraid I wouldn't have everything I dreamed of or hoped for. She only shared how proud she is and how happy she is these dreams had come true. My parents always made me believe I could do anything and nothing was out of my reach.
I am who I am because of the people in my life, not the things in my life. My family. My friends. The experiences I've shared with them. Knowing they believe in me. Knowing and feeling I am loved no matter what.
I have no regrets or resentment of not going to the prestigious, private school or anything else. My parents taught me everything I need to know about life just by living their lives. These are lessons that are not taught in any book or at any school and are far more important and valuable than any diploma or degree. These are lessons I will always carry with me and keep close to my heart.
So, Mom and Dad, I do hold you accountable for my life. My wonderful life. My life that may not be perfect, but is perfect for me. No regrets. I wouldn't change one single thing. I am exactly where I am supposed to be and who I am because of you. I know I am loved no matter what. I love you no matter what too.