My Mom and Dad are generous people.

It would take a full novel to describe everything they’ve done for me, but during the week of their 51st anniversary, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the most important gifts. Because of Diane and William, my parents, I am grateful for the following:

  1. My ability to walk…I was their first child, and they were young when I came into their lives with the birth defect of a dislocated hip. While they were in their 20’s, an age where my biggest concerns were college and my social life, they had to make the decision to put their baby girl through two major surgeries, so I could have a normal life. The surgeries were successful. I flourished into an active person, who could not only walk, but also run, bike, play volleyball, and dance. If not for the courage of my Mom and Dad, I would have never been able to do these things. I am grateful for the risk they took.
  2. My freedom and fearlessness in nature…I am afraid of a lot of things, but being alone in the woods isn’t one of them. My brothers and I were raised with the freedom to take our dog into the woods and stay out in the trees, playing there for hours. I return to nature whenever I need peace of mind, whenever I need to feel a certain freedom in my head. I owe this to my parents, who again had the courage to take a risk and trust us on our own. Side note: I know they trusted Duke too. Golden Labs are very protective babysitters.
  3. My education…From kindergarten at the lovely Cottage School, to St. Mary’s Catholic, through two high schools, and then both undergrad and grad school, my parents have always supported my education. They’ve literally paid for some of it, and they’ve always encouraged my nerdy nature.

They didn’t laugh when I lied and said I had “homework” on my first day of kindergarten. I wanted time to practice my letters. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, feeling serious as I drew those shapes between the lines, careful to observe the dotted line in the middle. I can still smell that paper. I knew I was doing something important, and my Mom treated this act with the same respect. She didn’t disturb me as I “studied,” and when my Dad came home from his day of teaching, I showed them both my finished work. They were proud and hung my writing on the fridge.

Throughout grammar school and high school, I continued to focus as a serious student. I knew what I was good at (English and Art) and I accepted that certain subjects would be a struggle (Gym and Math). As I grew into a critical thinker, I challenged my teachers, namely certain nuns. I got kicked out of Religion Class for lots of things, mostly for my obsessive questions about Mary Magdalen, my insisting she was not “bad girl” (I knew this then and defend it still). Thought they’ve never explicitly said so, I think Mom and Dad were pretty rebellious too. My aunts and uncles have ratted them out a few times, so they weren’t particularly hard on me for the Religion Class shenanigans. They accepted my “failures” and celebrated my successes. I think they just knew that if they let me be myself, a kid who really liked school, I’d turn out ok.

So, although they probably hoped I’d major in something that would make a little more money, my parents weren’t surprised when I chose education for my Bachelor’s. They were supportive. And while they may have secretly wrung their hands when I said I would study art for my Master’s, they outwardly understood. They helped me pack my car as I left sunny Florida for wintery Chicago to pursue my crazy dream.

  1. My sense of wanderlust…They have actually always encouraged any kind of travel or move, accepting that I am a restless soul. Whenever I told them I was moving again, they told me to have a fun adventure. I was especially grateful for their support when Benjamin and I moved to Europe. They let us store our stuff at their house, and they threw us a bon voyage party, toasting us with expressions like, “We gave you roots and wings. Fly and have a good time. You can always come home” and hugging us with a “Vaya con Dios!” Most Mama and Papa birds want to keep their chicks close, and I know they’d like us in Florida more often, but I deeply appreciate how they have let us go.
  2. Most of all, my parents’ acceptance of my husband… They have embraced Benjamin as their fun, smart son-in-law. They like his sense of humor and playfulness. They try to understand his work as a Digital Product Designer, doing their best, as I often do, to understand the rapidly shifting field of technology. They like how close he is with Hannah and Blake and how easily he can talk with my brothers, my sister-in-law, and my extended family members. They trust Benjamin, and I am grateful for how generous they’ve been with him too.

During our recent visit to Florida, we had some great moments with my parents.

They hosted a little dinner party for us where my brother Matthew made the best kebabs with shrimp, scallops, and pineapples. He went all out with grilled salmon and deviled crabs as well. The crabs were a collaborative effort. My brother Michael had made them from scratch, and Matthew deep-fried them for us. It was a fish feast! At the party, we got to know two of their dear friends, Joe and Mary, and their daughter, Sarah, and we chatted and laughed and had a really nice time!

My Mom also offered her shopping magic, and we went on our usual spree. We scored big time-blouses, skirts, and capris-all at consignment prices! Even in the bigger department stores, we found bargains, most notably the dress I needed for my niece’s wedding. I swear if there were a patron saint of thrift stores and sales (you never know), she would be perched on my Mom’s shoulder. My Mom is the luckiest woman when it comes to treasure hunting for quality clothes. Her generous spirit summons that saint to make sure anyone she shops with is lucky.

My Dad and I shared many moments on the back porch by the pool, talking about our favorite thing… language. We enjoy this topic in many forms—challenging each other with crossword clues (He usually wins), discussing regional idioms, pronunciations, and personal, vocal fillers (He likes that I use the word, “indeed,” and I like his youthful use of the word “whatever”), talking about Spanish, German, French, Italian, and Latin, and strategizing lessons for my English as a Second Language job. He hunted and found Dr. Seuss books for me to use for phonics, and now he’s on the search for songbooks I can use for fluency.

Last but not least, my parents gifted us with some very cool glasses. Diane and Bill were once avid cocktail party hosts. Without incriminating them too much, I will just say that I have great memories of sneaking in my PJ’s with my brothers to “steal” appetizers from the coffee table as the adults sipped in the kitchen, and waking up to adults who were, for some reason, “sleeping” on top of record albums. Yes, I remember those soirees! Now that Benjamin and I host our own parties, we are delighted by this gift. We’ve even named them ‘Nick and Nora’ after the characters from “The Thin Man” movies.

So I raise my glass to my parents in gratitude for all they’ve given me. Thank you, Mom, y Gracias Papa! You two are the best!