We all have distinct memories from childhood. There were mom’s homemade cookies, dad’s Monday night football games, and soccer practice and band camp. My memories are no different, except mom’s cookies were more like mom’s kulfi, and dad’s Monday night football games could be more accurately described as Friday night trips to the mosque. Soccer practice and band camp were more like Islamic school and Arabic lessons. These were just some of the minor differences between me- the ABCD (American Born Confused Desi)- and my “American” American friends.
I grew up watching my parents call their parents in Pakistan at odd hours of the night… yelling into the phone… “Hello? Umi, its Shahid. Hello?” Click. Bad connection.
I grew up dreading the December trips back to Pakistan; buying giant suitcases annually to fill with medicines and current consumer novelties like Hershey’s chocolates for our anxiously awaiting cousins.
Never once did I stop to think that I was growing up watching my own future. That one day, I myself would be packing those suitcases with Splenda and Calcium pills to take back to my own parents; that one-day my parents would age and I‘d age with them. Yet somehow, I still feel like a crusty eyed child just waiting to crawl back into the safety of my bed.
Now the time is here, their giant move back to Pakistan only months away. I finally realize the incredible amount of strength it took them 30 years ago to leave the only country they’ve ever known and move to America to start from scratch.
My parents had an arranged marriage. When they came to America, they were not only strangers to a new country but strangers to each other as well. They were truly strangers in a strange land.
My sister and I took the lead in teaching them about American culture… about fast food, brand names and how to say Vons, NOT Wons. We felt that our parents were plebian in every way and at times it was embarrassing.
Now, as an adult, all that embarrassment has given way to a newfound respect and admiration. I truly see them now in a way that I never have before, as two very strong individuals. Although I’m going to miss Mom’s kababs, two to a Ziploc bag, to be kept in the freezer for when I don’t have time to make dinner (which is always), and Dad’s detailed advice about what to do with my car when it’s making funny noises…. I know they’re going to be truly happy back there; celebrating the success of their 30-year journey here; to come, raise kids, and go back to their home.
Their job is done. It’s my turn to take the reigns of what they have given me and make everything I can out of it.
I believe that they are two of the strongest people I’ve ever known. I believe that only when we reach that border of adulthood, do we look back and admire what our parents, who were younger than we are now, had accomplished with enormous amounts of strength. I believe that the true meaning of adulthood is finally being able to see your parents as individuals who are beautiful, wonderful, and just as flawed as you and I. This I believe.
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