Every once in a while, my grandmom tells me the story of the first week my parents brought me home, and I love to listen as she recounts what is was like for her holding me to her chest and rocking me to sleep- whispering that she would always protect me no matter the cost. My parents communicated this same message to me throughout my childhood. From my dad, it was when he would let my sister and me pile up with him in his La-Z-Boy and rock to our heart’s content, laying down with me until I fell asleep for my nap, or staying beside me all night when I was sick. For my mom, it was the time she took with my sister and me on a daily basis. Puzzles, reading, playing outside, home cooked meals, and walks around the neighborhood were daily childhood treasures that were my constant and provided a blanket of security, guarding my innocent view of the world. I know that, like my grandmother, my parents wanted to protect me from all the pain, heartache, and evil that the world could mercilessly heap at me. I also know that they couldn’t protect me, as no mortal fully can; but they prepared me.
They prepared me with their faith: a faith that survived past the Sunday morning sermon, and beautifully tangled itself in every minute detail of my life. Through every heartbreak, change, and trial, this faith they shared with me has been my unfailing foundation.
They nurtured my independent spirit. Fully equipped with my mom’s creativity, stubbornness, and iron will, I am grateful my parents recognized the independent streak in me early on. They encouraged me to go to summer camps for weeks at a time, befriend people I had never met, and follow my heart for adventure wherever it would take me- be it searching for sea shells on Dauphin Island, or a backpacking trip through the Smokies.
They taught me how to be an entrepreneur. My mom helped my sister and me start a sleuth of jobs in middle school, most of which are sufficiently embarrassing to recount. If anyone saw that weird kid riding around the neighborhood with a bucket full of car wash supplies strapped to her bike and a red wagon dragging behind her, that was me. It was me riding my little carwash on wheels door to door as I washed cars to help pay my way through camp that summer, and it instilled in me the essential knowledge that hard work pays off.
They taught me to be creative, were always proud of my accomplishments, and encouraged me to keep pressing on.
I am stubborn, so my parents couldn’t protect me from the first boy who broke my heart. But I am stubborn, and they knew they had given me enough so that it would not break me down.
I am independent, so they knew that I would make my own decisions, and they wouldn’t always be wise. But they let me be independent, and unafraid to set out into the great big world in search of myself and what it has to offer.
They knew that they couldn’t protect me once I set foot into this world, but the faith they instilled in me grounds me with the knowledge that my true identity will never be found on Earth.
They knew that one day I would grow up and stop writing letters to fairies, and that one day a skinned knee would no longer define pain. They knew that I would learn nothing lasts forever. My grandparents would get sick, my first dog would die, boys would be boys, and I would experience the million different ways my heart could bruise and break and mend itself together again.
My parents couldn’t protect me, but they gave me everything I needed to make it out alive. I can see it now as I write this from my house in Auburn; it’s my new home, but because of all they taught me, I’m not scared to leave again. Every lesson I learned and every value they worked to instill in me has prepared me for this time when I will once again strike out into the great big world and find what waits for me. And I am not afraid.