When Parents Become Human


My mom just sent me another one of her infamous care packages. Amidst the dollar store candy, perfume samples and cheap socks was an envelope of family photos. One of them is pictured above.

It got me to thinking about that scary moment when you’re a kid, scarier than any monster under the bed, when you realize that your parents are actually human. That they have faults and frailties and get scared of monsters under the bed just like you.

When you’re a child of divorced parents, this seems to happen sooner. I remember spending the night at a friend’s house when I was about 7. This was the bitter end of “The Me Decade” and just about every kid’s parents were divorced. My friend’s mom decided to leave for the evening at around 9pm. She simply left a note on the fridge that said, “Be good. Mommy has to go out to find you a new daddy.”

When I look at this photo of my parents, I realize that within a few years they would be divorced. Those years when it was just my mom and me were both inspiring (because it was us against the world) and weird (because I knew she was trying to hide her fears from me.)
The truth was–she was terrified.
She was divorced, alone and Honolulu was about as far away from her family in Finland as you could get. We had almost no money because she got a lousy divorce settlement. We could barely afford to eat sometimes. I remember one particularly bleak Christmas when we were completely broke. She gave me a tiny, cranberry-colored satin horse decorated with little sequins. It was from a cheap Chinese gift shop. It was all she could afford. But I loved that little horse. It was so perfect and glamorous. I carried it with me wherever I went.

And that is the magic of my mom. To this day, that pretty little horse is a symbol of her: no matter how afraid you are, how depressed you feel, always show your satin and sequined side.

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2 thoughts on “When Parents Become Human

  1. you had to know I would love this…Did I ever mention the time I skipped school and my dad sent a note the next day, it simply said “please excuse my daughter for being an idiot”
    Our family doesn’t have a lot of money, so we’ve had xmas like yours before, but to this day we still make homemade greeting cards to give to each other. They are usually pretty hilarious. I’ve still got em in a box under my bed….
    You are the perfect representation of your mom, conveyed through cheap chinese’s gifts (it’s a good thing)— all satiny and sparkly. I love that about you.

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