Grateful Breath

This week training has consumed most of my time at work, but I’d much rather discuss a cosmic coincidence I observed since my time here. I was recently reminded of my younger self through the lens of a young girl we will call Ema. Ema is scheduled to camp with us this summer. She is a local bilingual student that is hesitant to join us without her middle school friends there — naturally. Coming from immigrant parents myself, I found a strong connection to her. I was directed to her mother last week. In an effort to make the family and Ema more comfortable with the idea of joining our week long camp scheduled for mid- July, her mother and I talked over the phone (en Espanyol) about coming to meet us and visiting the park. In my traditional Mexican upbringing, it is very rare that parents allow sleepovers. I suspected that this might be the issue with coming to camp. Ema, her mother and her younger sister visited us the following afternoon. I was surprised to find that Ema’s mother was very excited about the idea and even encouraged both girls to join. The only issue was Ema’s resistance to being unaccompanied. After Cathy, our camp coordinator, and I introduced ourselves to the family outside the Lewis and Clark Visitors Center, we asked the girls what grade they were in.  Her mother spoke in broken English saying “7th grade math”. Ema quickly cut her off– saying “I’m in sixth grade”. I would later learn her mother had said that because Ema is indeed in a higher math grade. Throughout the conversation with them, I often noted that Ema would interrupt her mother as she struggled to talk to Cathy. This made me remember the strong frustration I often felt with my own parents. As the oldest child of the family, and the only English speaker, I too was used as an interpreter often for the adults. I had a strong burden of responsibility for my family at a young age. I eventually found myself feeling bitter about thinking I was unable to depend on my parents with school related things, but rather being depended on for having to translate and understand things like DMV procedures. I noticed that same frustration in the way Ema spoke to her mother. Today, I realize the incredible sacrifice that my parents made to come to this country. My mother recently mentioned how relaxed my dad was in Mexico, as opposed to the States. That’s when it dawned on me how stressful and possibly demoralizing it must really be for immigrants.. As a proud Mexican man, I can only imagine my dad’s heavy heart when working difficult jobs, like disposing of harmful objects and fluids at hospitals. This process of understanding the struggles of my family and appreciating the beauty of my unique culture was a long journey. I trust that Ema, too, will one day be able to be grateful for her mother’s insistence on experiencing new things. It was this same openness in my mother that prompted me to find a love for the out of doors.

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