Gray Hairs and Wrinkles

Fabiola Piña - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on June 4, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
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At fourteen, sitting on my parents’ bed with my legs crossed, I looked at my mom as she frantically ran her fingers through her hair. All she could do was gaze into the mirror and sigh. She could not believe it. She could not believe that her hair was turning gray. She turned to me and said, “Fabiola, jalame este pelo, no?” (“Fabiola, please pull out this hair for me.”) She desperately wanted me to pull out any traces of gray hairs, even though she was well aware that when she plucked one away, three would grow back in its place.

Then my dad walked through the door. He was home from work. As my usual way of greeting him, I jumped into the air and leaped into his arms. Even though he was sweaty, even though he was smelly, and even though he was dirty, I could not resist hugging my father; it was my daughterly duty. No, it was not really a duty, but more like the need of a daughter to share an embrace with her father.

Finally, I saw my mother and my father come together. In slow motion, there was another hug, another kiss. There, I sighed airily as they shared a moment that told me they still cared for each other, that nothing had changed from the first instant in which they fell in love. Then, as instinct, my mother faced the stove, turned on the burner, and let it preheat for tortillas. My dad sat down, taking off his hat––he always wore a hat to work. As he took it off, it revealed patches of lost hair and wrinkles painted with sweat. Then it hit me.

Each wrinkle my dad has on his face tells a story of hard work and endurance. In the same exact way, each gray hair my mom pretends is not there is a sign of wisdom. I know that part of that story and part of that wisdom is me. I am their child. I am their responsibility. I am a gray hair, and I am a wrinkle.

I love my parents and everything they have done for me. I cringe at the thought that someday I will have to live without them, but they have raised me well enough to live independently. Still, they are everything to me. They are my day. They are my night. They are my motivation. Even more, they are love, pain, discipline, patience, kindness, and beyond what any noun can label them as or what any adjective can describe them as. They are Francisco Piña and Maricela Marquez, and they are what I believe makes me, well, me.

Eighteen years ago, Fabiola Piña’s parents emigrated from Mexico to Chicago, Illinois, where Miss Piña was born. This fall, she will be a first-generation college student, where she hopes to study Russian, Japanese, and American Sign Language to become an interpreter-translator.