Five years ago, if you told me that I would have spent my 21 birthday on a plane going to South Africa I would have told you you were crazy. When I thought of my 21st, I though that I would be getting drunky pants with my friends and doing the basic birthday stuff. To think that I would be in South Africa surrounded by people, so passionate about life, that I barley knew, already having this much fun didn’t even cross my mind.
On my birthday I normally drive back home and see my parents, and celebrate the initial day with them. This year I asked them to see if it would work out if I could come home and they kind of brushed me off; which was weird considering I would be in Africa for a week and I hadn’t visited them in almost two weeks. Normally I go home once a week or so because I am so close to home and close to my family. The day of my birthday, which was also the day we were leaving, my parents assured me they would not be at the airport due to work, which was fine. I’m an adult, it’s almost sad that I haven’t gone more than three weeks with out seeing them. We got to the airport, get in line for boarding passes, and someone goes “whose parents are those?”. I looked up from my luggage and it was MY parents. I dropped my stuff and ran over, just happy to see them before I leave, and gave them a huge hug.
I have always looked up to my parents as such inspirational figures in my life. I have always been slightly intimidated by their success and also so proud of their achievements. They stretch themselves and sacrifice so much for my brother and I, and as an adult I can now fully appreciate that.
After I hugged them, they showed me a huge platter of cup cakes they had made and they brought my birthday presents; my mom went so far as texting me that morning, telling me that my presents would be waiting for me on the hearth, like they do every birthday morning, for when I get back. The whole group walked over to an annex, after getting their boarding passes, and had the cup cakes. My parents also went so far as bringing champaign (alcoholic and non alcoholic) and popped bottles in the airport. My parents never cease to amaze me with how far they will go for me (and my brother). As everyone was eating cup cakes, I opened presents. Towards the bottom of the gift bag my mom wrote a letter labeled: “to be read over the Atlantic”. My mom is known for writing absolute sob worthy letters, with so much love and care written in every word. I already knew that I was in for an emotional catastrophe on the plane, I was right. I hugged them goodbye for now and mentally prepared myself for the 26 hour trip to South Africa.
On the first stretch of the flight to Amsterdam I couldn’t bring myself to read the letter. With two hours left on the second flight to South Africa I finally prepared myself enough to read it.
“None of us are perfect she”, she wrote, “but thank you for seeing the things that make me happy and the things that I may do best, not my flaws and shortcomings. Seeing the positives, searching for the sunflowers, reaching for the stars, climbing the mountain knowing the summit is always worth it—those are the things I have been able to instill.” At this point I was a hot mess on the plane and no amount of mental preparation could have prepared me for the tears that were coming. Growing up I always saw all the effort and pride my parents put into being the best parents they could. As an adult I get to appreciate the outcome. There isn’t a day that goes by that I think to myself how luck I am to have the parents I have and get to experience the love and admiration they have for each other.
Words or actions will never be able to describe how much I love and appreciate all my parents do for me and I hope one day I can put in a letter what they have done.