The automatic gate to the underground parking lot was still open, so my mom told me to run inside before it closed. I wasn’t fast enough and I fell behind. I stopped in front of the gate, thinking it was too late. The problem was that my mom was inside and the gate was closing in front of me. Fear took over and I stood there, unable to step inside because I thought I would get crushed. I told her I couldn’t do it. She said, “yes you can, just go fast.” I shook my head. I was too scared. Just then, my mom’s hand grabbed my arm and with one quick, aggressive pull, I was in. The gate closed behind me a few seconds later. My heart was pounding. I looked up at my mom and she looked at me with a slight smirk on her face as if she were saying, “I told you so.”

My mom has never been the kind to run away from difficult situations. She always seemed to have a solution and it always seemed as if she knew that it would work. Her methods may have seemed unconventional at times, but who else would have the courage to make the tough decisions? My mom was and will always continue to be, a survivor–a warrior–and she was determined to instill that same even-when-things-seem-difficult-nothing-is-impossible type of attitude in us.

When my mom wasn’t teaching me to be physically fearless by slipping through gates, she was also teaching me to be intellectually fearless. She saved me from growing up without knowing how to read in our native tongue. The interesting part of that was that my mom barely knew how to read and write herself. She attended approximately two years of grade school. That’s it. Yet, she somehow taught me how to read in Spanish.

Despite the fact that I didn’t speak English when I first started school and despite the controversial assumptions that the government spent/spends too much on second language learners, I never once had a Spanish-speaking teacher. So, I learned to speak, read, and write in English while I was in school. This, however, meant that I was never taught how to read or write in Spanish. So, my mom took it upon herself to teach me.

I had books that were written in Spanish and my mom had me read them to her. When I couldn’t read certain words, I opted to skip them. This was unacceptable. My mom made me start over. After several attempts, I grew frustrated. I told her that I couldn’t do it and I started crying. She scolded me and told me to start over. I was angry and couldn’t believe that she wouldn’t let me stop. Spanish was completely different from what I was learning in school and it was confusing. I wasn’t used to it and I was convinced that I couldn’t do it. My mom saw my tears, but she didn’t care. She told me to keep reading. I hesitated, hoping that she would change her mind. She didn’t. I started over and when I got to the part that was giving me trouble, I took my time. I sounded it out and slowly finished reading the whole page.

A sense of disbelief took over me. I stayed silent for a while then looked at my mom.

She had a slight smirk on her face.

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