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A Girl and a Boy
I'm going to tell a story.
Once upon a time, a girl and a boy met in high school. They started talking to each other a lot, and soon enough, became close. They fell in love.
They lived in a small town in China. Both of them were poor, but everyone was poor back then, so they didn't really mind. They played with whatever toys they could find, or make up with each other. The world around them might have been limited in opportunity, but not in happiness.
They were smart students as well. They both topped their respective classes and worked their absolute hardest to achieve the best grades and learn the most. After all, their parents told them, no, forced them to do so, and they were smart enough to get very far.
When it came time for college entrance exams, a problem arose. The girl, lets call her Julia, while extremely bright, couldn't take tests very well. Testing was just not her strong suit. Meanwhile, the guy, let's call him Jeffrey, was one of those few students who truly shined. He placed the top percentiles on the entrance exam, while she only got average. In China, where testing was everything, it basically decided their college choices.
Jeffrey went to the Chinese equivalent of MIT at the time. In order to do so, he moved over a hundred miles away. Julia, on the other hand, went to an average college, where her parents had taught. He majored in physics; she, in architecture.
Though they lived far away from each other, their love was steady. Chinese, back then, were pretty traditional on their definition of family, so commitment was commitment. Soon after they graduated, they got married, and had a child.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey's hard work had paid off. He was given the opportunity to study abroad, in America. Syracuse University's graduate school accepted him with a full scholarship. He could bring his wife along, and they could take courses their together. The only problem was their child.
Let's call him James.
They left me with my grandparents for two and a half years as they worked to get their masters degrees, which were in Computer Science. Julia struggled with English, as well as Computer Science(architecture majors aren't really built to transition). Fortunately, Jeffrey was as brilliant as ever. He helped her. He did her problem sets and worked twice as hard. He helped her study for the midterms, and finals. He stayed up all night in order to make sure his wife would pass. Julia worked hard, and fortunately her first class. It would take her another two years to gain her degree.
But she missed her child dearly. She could not wait until they found jobs and could support him. And soon enough, Jeffrey, after graduating early, got a job working as a software developer for a small computer company named i2 technology. Julia got a job nearby as a waitress while finishing up her degree at Suffolk University.
Then, on April 9, 2000, I stepped out of the plane to meet my parents for the first time.
My mother cooked me Chinese style ribs my first day in America. I remember because the way she looked at me, with loving eyes I had never seen before in anyone except my grandparents. Though I didn't know who she was, as a child, I forgot that quickly. Whoever feeds you must love you, I guess.
Time passed. I learned English(the first words I learned were "bathroom" and "motorcycle"). I went to preschool in Woburn. I spent my days playing with small action figures and other toys, soccer balls and bikes with training wheels. My parents wanted me to have what they never got as a child. Overall, my life felt normal, happy.
Then there was a fight.
I must have been six at the time, so I don't remember much. There was loud yelling and maybe a slap. All I remember was the aftermath. My mother was crying, my dad had left the apartment, and I was wiping the tears from her eyes. The TV was playing a cartoon I had watched as a child. The living room was a mess of broken China and shattered glass.
They told me they were going to get a divorce. I didn't really know what the meant, so I kind of just sat there and listened. I wanted to cry, but I was afraid. I was terrified of upsetting them further or causing another fight. So I sat there, paralyzed by my fears with only my thoughts and imaginations, which honestly only made things worse.
Nothing actually happened after that. Things were tense and arguments were frequent, but for some reason, they never split up. Soon after, they bought a house, and moved to Newton. I forgot about the fight, about what they had told me.
I went to kindergarten at Countryside Elementary school. I lived in a large(well, it felt large compared to my apartment, and as a seven year old, everything was huge) white house at the bottom of a steep hill, which I heard my parents complain about to the neighbors often.
I remember waking up one night with a terrible nightmare, the scene from that fight. I was probably seven at the time. I cried and my mother came into my room, asking what was wrong.
"Nothing," I said after a while. "It must have all been only a dream."
Another fight happened when I was ten.
This time it was worse. My door was closed, so I could only hear. I heard crying from both sides. I heard objects smash and screams and shrieks. I heard police sirens and then a silence.
My dad brought me to a McDonalds a few days later. He told me that this time, they were going to get a divorce. He asked me whom I wanted to live with.
"I don't know," I remember saying. "I just want things to stay the way they were." I was too scared to cry again.
"Well, do you want to live in the same house, or move?" he asked me quietly.
"I want to stay here."
There was an awkward silence, and then my dad sighed.
"Well then you can live with your mother then," he said after a while.
He told me not to worry about fighting, because soon it would be over, and they would be separated. He said that it would be better after that. I remember going home believing him.
But again, nothing happened. A few more awkward silences, tense moments, sometimes more screams. Fewer fights happened and the yelling stopped after a while. Somehow, it all seemed to disappear.
I lived in the same white house, under the same steep hill, with my two parents, Jeffrey and Julia. There were arguments sometimes, and some crying on my own part, but nothing as terrifying as that night ever again.
Flash forward to about a year ago.
I was arguing with my dad about colleges. He was being quite discouraging and mean, and I was getting really mad. He stormed off and turned off the house's internet(he likes to do that when he's mad).
I sighed and sat down on the couch, my hands on my face.
My mother came in and tried to comfort me. "That's just how he is," she said. "Don't listen to him. You know that."
"Why do I have to deal with him? Why does anyone?" I yelled back at her.
There was an awkward silence.
"Well I tried to get rid of him once, even twice, remember? You didn't like that, as I recalled."
There was an even more awkward silence.
I finally asked her what had happened those two times. What had gone on, and why nothing ever actually happened.
"It was a lot of things," my mom replied, looking away and turning on the TV. "There were complicated feelings, but most importantly, there was you."
"Yeah. We needed to stay together for you. Had we separated you would have been traumatized, and we didn't go all the way to America to mess up our child."
My mom bit into a sunflower seed. and watched her TV show.
I sat there for a while, stunned, not knowing what to say.
She got up after a while to do laundry. I sat on that couch, and, after she had left, started to cry.
I know this is a bit cliche(and a lot longer than I planned it), but that's the way it is with these stories. You kind of remember every little detail, and want to paint the picture.
They had done this for me.
It's not unheard of for parents to stay together for their child, but I could not imagine that ever happening to me.
I understood then why my parents did the things they did. I understood then why they made me work so hard, why they bought me every workbook and sent me to every tutor. Why they took the time to yell at me, to send me to my room, to make me work harder than I ever thought I could. Why they went to every parent teacher conference and over every test.
It was because they loved me and cared enough to sacrifice their own happiness for my own. And they sure as hell didn't want to waste it.
I could rant on and talk about them more, about how much I love them and how little they know that. I could keep talking on and on, another 1500 words to thank them for every single little thing they've done for my own good. But I feel like that's cliche, a waste of your time and theirs.
Instead I strive to fulfill their dreams. I strive to take in every bit of love and care they put into me, every ounce of happiness they removed from themselves and put into my body, every second they used out of their time to save mine, and use it to my full ability. I know I rant a lot about learning for my own learning, not for someone else, but I guess I have to be hypocritical today. I learn, I succeed, I work hard, not for myself, but for them. For their dream of happiness that they invested into me. I work to achieve success and happiness in myself, I resort to be happy and hedonistic, because any other use of their love and care and happiness would be a waste. I strive to grow up and pay back every ounce of their unending love, though I know such a task is impossible.
And even if I don't succeed, its a task I must never forget: I wrote this to remind myself of its reality. Perhaps when I get older and have a child of my own, I will see what they saw and feel what they felt.
Once upon a time, a girl and a boy met in high school and fell in love. They got married and had a child, even after being separated in college. They left their child in China while they worked to build a greater opportunity for him. They laughed and they cried, they loved and they hated, they worked and they fought, through it all, so that that child could become me.