My mother came to the United States from Mexico. She and her family became naturalized citizens, and they settled in a small town nestled right next to the border. My mom’s father, my tata, worked in the fields for a living. The town is a farming community, and that was the work that was available. My mother was the first of five sisters to go to college.
My father was raised in a broken household in New Jersey. He spent some days with his mother, some with his father. Hunger was a frequent companion of his life. He wasn’t particularly close to his brother and his sister when he was young, but that is something he tries to rectify now. A tad directionless after high school, he joined the Navy.
After graduating from college, my mother became a kindergarten teacher at a local school. She has not left the place since she started, remaining a respected member of the faculty.
My father went through many experiences while in the Navy, most of which make for awesome stories, but he still jokes about how the Navy stands for “Never Again Volunteer Yourself.” After finishing his service, he decided to become a teacher. He learned Spanish, knowing that a bilingual teacher would be more desirable for schools to hire.
He got a job at my mother’s school.
When they first met, my mother thought my father was too proud. She offered to help him set up his classroom, an old-hand reaching out to a newbie, but he refused. My mother’s first impression of him was soured.
My father was completely oblivious of my mother’s dislike. He asked her out on a date.
They dated quietly for a while, until my father asked her to marry him. He also took that extra step to ask my tata for my mother’s hand. My father’s Spanish-speaking skills were perfect. He asked respectfully and quietly.
My father might not have realized this, but he was technically asking for my nana’s, my grandmother’s, permission instead of my tata’s. She ruled the household from behind the scenes. She sat next to my tata when my father asked, and she slapped his arm repeatedly, hissing, “Dile que sí!”
My parents got married.
My mother came from a large family, where family reunions included hundreds of people who all seem to know each other’s names. Everyone knows everyone’s business.
My father barely spoke to his own family.
My mother made it clear to my father as soon as they were married that she wanted children. A year after they were married, my older sister was born.
I came after, about a year-and-a-half later. Early on, my parents made it clear to the two of us that we were to be the most important person in the other’s life.
Of all the gifts my parents gave to me, this establishment of love between my sister and me is the greatest.
Not a day goes by where I do not hear an “I love you” from my parents. Despite wildly different upbringings, my parents came together with the understanding that they would create a nuclear family based on acceptance and love.