Author: angiem, 02 07th, 2013

All children have expectations of their parents. The seeds of expectation are planted in a child’s infancy, by the first cry. From the first: I am hungry, feed me; I am wet, change me; I am scared, protect me; I am hurting, love me, expectations are watered daily, and they grow. The roots go deep. Far into the earth. And whatever the outcome, disappointment follows.

I know all about disappointment, dashed expectations. Mines were dug out, set fire to, and destroyed soon after I turned nine. That’s when my childhood stopped. One day I was a child and the next I wasn’t.

It wasn’t anybody’s fault.

When my parents came to the United States in 1981, with five children clinging to their legs ranging from two years old to nine, they worried more about what things to bring in their allotted two suitcases, than about how they would function in this country. Functioning in the United States, in fact, was never an issue. To their minds they were not the first immigrants and they would certainly not be the last. Besides, they had family here, to secure them a furnished rental house, an automobile, even a job for my father. Within a year or two, with hard work and many economies, they would even be able to buy their own home. So many immigrants with a strong work ethic did it. They would too.

And they did. My father had two, three jobs at a time. He worked from four in the morning to eleven at night. Monday through Saturday. Week after week after week. For years and years. He did this while my mother raised us five, gardened and cooked and drove us to school and to church and to wherever else we needed to go. All because they were determined that their children have a better life than they did. That they’d have better opportunities.

But it was the lack of English skills that they bumped against every single time they stepped out of the house: at the grocery store, at the bank, at the doctor’s office. And as the oldest child in the family, I became their interpreter. A parent to them, in a sense. Their confidant. The one privy to all their secrets and moles and blood clots and financial situations. I had more control over their lives than I understood. And maybe even more than they understood.

While my sisters and brothers chased each other in the rows of vegetables and fruit trees, while they splashed in a plastic blue kiddie pool in the shade of the backyard pomegranate tree, or read books, or played with bits of wood they imagined as dolls and action figures and cars under the scented lemon trees of the front yard, I was translating insurance forms or waiting on the line for the electric company. That’s when the seeds of responsibility were planted. One. By. One.

I did not know any better. I was raised to respect my elders.

If there was any resentment toward them, if there was any resentment that I didn’t have the freedoms of my siblings, it was buried deep within my body, somewhere in my toes, I think. It was the toes that always itched to run away when I heard my name called.

But I never ran. Responsibility had become a vine and I was ensnared within it.


13 Responses to “expectations”

  1. Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita Says:

    There always seems to be one child who bears the most responsibility. In my family, it was me, even though I was the youngest, when my mother became ill. I’m sure in the end it only made us stronger. thanks for sharing with us.

  2. Alina Says:

    Wow that is amazingly and beautifully written Angie !!!

  3. Jena Says:

    Truth! All my life I expected my parents to grow up and act like parents. Even after they divorced they acted like self absorbed selfish brats more focused on their “issues” than their kids.
    From all I read of your posts… Your parents did the right thing by giving you a life with better opportunities though. Even if they were a little misguided in how they went about it.

  4. Victoria Says:

    Thoughtful and beautifully written Angie. I can imagine the weight of the responsibility on your young shoulders, to help your parents, not to get anything wrong in translations. A lot of hard work went into creating the life your parents wanted for you and your siblings.

  5. Elena Says:

    What lovely picture! You are good daughter! Your mama very blessed for have you.

  6. Ava Says:

    Beautiful writing my friend. I admire your parents for what they did leaving all that was comfortable and known to offer their kids something better. I admire you too. You made the best of the situation.

  7. angiem Says:

    Stephanie, I don’t think birth order matters much in determining how responsible one is to one’s parents. However, I do think gender does.

    Alina, thank you! :)

    Jena, I’m sorry about that. It’s devastating for a child.

    Victoria, more than you can imagine was lost in translation.

    Elena, thank you!

    Ava, well, I tried.

  8. pamela Says:

    I was behind a Latino family at the post office last week. Two adults and one little girl probably seven or eight years old. The little girl was handling all the transactions as she was the only one of the three fluent in English. My heart went out to her for the heavy mantle of responsibility she carried. I wish I could have told her about you. She would have been heartened, I know, to hear of a lady with similar childhood experiences who grew to be a lovely, thoughtful woman. We all play the cards we are dealt, but some of us play them with more grace than others.

  9. Vicki Archer Says:

    How lucky for them that they had you to rely on… and how dedicated and strong they were to give you a new life in an adopted country… Responsibility is a weight but it is also one of life’s great privileges…

    Have a wonderful weekend Angie… xv

  10. audrey Says:

    Angie, I always enjoy what you share, and your writing is so lovely. What you share creates such a special connection with your readers; your honesty and openness draws us in.

    I am in Finland now (soon to return to the u.s.) and I just now came from a culture class where we discussed the everyday doings one goes through while living in a new culture. For all the students, the experiences are so varied and heartfelt.

    Thanks so much for giving us an even deeper understanding as your family found it’s way in it’s new land and home.

    How each person’s experience was different in many ways with responsibility which came, whether it was asked for or not…

    Such a lovely account of making it… and making it work in a new land, new language, and new ways of being… not always easy!

  11. Dale Frounfelter Says:

    …beautiful and painful.
    One. By. One.

  12. Lauren at adorn la femme Says:

    This experience is what makes you the loving and giving and beautiful person you are today! I am sure this helped you to develop your confidence~ but at the time it was a huge task! Seeing your collection of books and your times spent reading at the coffee shop, I realize why you write so well!

    -Lauren at adorn la femme

  13. angiem Says:

    Thank you, Pamela.

    Vicki, I agree.

    Audrey, thank you. I’m going to pop by for a visit soon. I miss you!

    Dale, thanks, my friend.

    Lauren, it did. Thank you for your sweet words. And for stopping by.

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