I don't particularly think they were different. Sure, my father spoke with a heavy accent and my mother still embraced her East LA hippie ways, but they were pretty average parents. Or at least I assumed so in the spectrum of parents at Parent/Teacher Night my freshman year of high school. We arrived as a family, but I somehow managed to slip away from the pack before they talked to my teachers.
I sat in the quad and watched from a distance as my parents looked lost and overwhelmed, my father pushing a stroller and my mom's thick red hair pulled back in a bun. I looked away and pretended not to see. Unlike other kids who might have been embarrassed by what their parents did or said, I was embarrassed of who my parents were.
Writing this makes my fingers ache.
For so long, I wanted to crawl out of my brown skin and be someone else. Belong elsewhere. A place I spent years imagining from all the books I read, complete with boarding schools, a vacation home in Aspen, and LL Bean catalogues. A place where our dented family van didn't quite fit.
Later that night my father stood in front of my bedroom door and asked what he did wrong. He asked why I didn't want to stand at his side when teachers proffered glowing words for his daughter's work. He said his father was a drunk and disappeared from his life and explained he was doing his best without really knowing how fathers act.
I think back to this moment. Often. If I could turn back time, I'd slap the 14-year-old in the quad and tell her to walk upright next to her immigrant father and hippie mother. Little did I realize long rides in our dented family van shaped who I became and the destiny of my life. Far away from Aspen.