One year ago today I wrote my first Living with my Parents blog post.
Thirty-three years ago today my parents got married.
And since the title of this blog includes parents, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to tell you some things you should know about them.
Whenever people find out that my parents are from overseas (and this usually comes about when they ask me if I’m Spanish, Mexican, Portuguese, or Italian – I’m none of the above!) they’re always curious to find out how they met. I’ve told this story dozens of times and I never tire of it. Here it is:
My dad grew up in a small village in Switzerland called Baldingen, population 300 (at the time). My Opa was a farmer and my dad spent his days getting up to mischief – like climbing the church steeple (as a child he regaled me with hundreds of “when I was a kid” bedtime stories). My Oma was a devoted mother of 4 boys (poor woman).
At 20 years old, after completing his mandatory service in the Swiss Army, my dad decided it was time to leave his small town and explore the world. His top choices were South Africa and Australia, but when he was offered a job in Canada, he changed his course. With very little knowledge of the English language, my dad made his new home in Toronto.
My mom is a city girl. She grew up in Birmingham, England, knew little about farming and a lot about shopping and public transportation. As the youngest of 4 kids (two girls, two boys) she also has a lot of funny childhood stories. It’s my parents’ fault that I turned out to be such a mischievous child.
My mom was 19 when she and her best friend decided to spend a year in the “home of the brave” but...the USA was too expensive. So they got their 1 year visas and ventured to the “true north strong and free” instead.
My dad had been in Canada for almost 5 years by the time he and my mom met, and my mom, just two weeks! Having learned most of his vocabulary from the other foreign men in his tool and die factory, my dad’s colourful language was a shock to my mom, a refined English woman. But they made it through their first meeting (a blind date!) and my mom came away with a bit of apprehension while my dad came away with a new nickname: Starsky. (From Starsky & Hutch, on account of his curly afro).
Despite the endearing nickname, my parents did not hit it off. There were no sparks, little chemistry, and no questions of “when will I see you again?”
Instead, the second meeting came about rather spontaneously. My mom, a nanny, was asked by the family she worked for if she could be out of the house for one particular evening. So she got herself tickets to a show and a date. But her date cancelled.
With little time left, my mom wondered, “Who should I call now?” So she called my dad.
And that second date that almost didn’t happen was the beginning of their relationship.
Initially my mom had no plans to stay in Canada longer than her 1 year visa allowed, but now she was in love! But she also had to obey the law, so on the last day possible she flew back to England and carried on a courtship with my dad via…letters.
That’s right. Think Dear John. There was no email back then, no skyping. And my mom’s house didn’t even have a phone! So letters it was. Handwritten. Four months’ worth.
As I child I remember snooping in my parents’ closet for some dress-up clothes one day when I stumbled upon this very secret stash of letters. I only got about halfway through one of them when I nearly gagged at the mushiness. I had no idea my dad had it in him!
Having become a Canadian citizen, my dad was now in a position to sponsor my mom and bring her back to Canada. Less than 2 months after her return they became engaged. They married in England, honeymooned in Switzerland (where my mom met her mother and father-in-law for the first time!) and moved back to Canada.
They spent their entire Canadian lives living in the Toronto area, which is why it was difficult for them to leave last year when they packed up and said goodbye to some very dear friends and moved to Ottawa.
Considering that we have no relatives in North America (growing up I was always jealous of my friends’ big family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas) and my parents can never count on me to stay in one place, they chose to follow my older brother and move to Ottawa less than a year after becoming grandparents. And with baby # 2 due any day now, I’d say they’re quite happy with their decision.
What You Should Really Know
I have a lot of love and respect for my parents. From a very young age they not only allowed me to make my own decisions, but trusted me to make them. Though at times my dad is my biggest resistance, he is also my biggest supporter. There are 3 things that he never forgets to tell me: he loves me, he’s proud of me, and I’m beautiful. Daughters need to hear that.
My mom is my best friend and my partner in silliness (which often causes my dad to walk out of the room shaking his head). She is aware of the fact that I’m “different” and has always encouraged me to chase my dreams, even if they seem foolish in the eyes of the world. I’m glad for this, because I’ve seen a lot of my dreams come true. (And I’m not finished dreaming yet).
Whenever they ask me why I would want to live overseas, I respond, “It’s in my DNA!” And while I know that they would rather have me close to home, they understand that this won’t always be the case. Recently my mom gave me a hug accompanied by some very freeing words:
“I want to hug you while you’re here, and enjoy you while you’re here, because I know you’re going to leave again, because I know that’s who you are.”
They’ve helped shape me into the person I am and given me the freedom to go and be that person.
Making it to 33 years is no easy feat. (In fact, I’m reading Douglas Coupland’s All Families Are Psychotic right now to remind myself that it’s ok to be strange). One thing I especially admire about my parents is that in addition to their love, faith, and life of risk, there is always a lot of laughter at the end of the day. And all of those things make being their daughter a huge blessing and an incredible joy.