River of Gratitude

The last five years have been tremendous years for self-reflection, a cultivation of gratitude, and boundary pushing in a pursuit to grow spiritually. As I look back on the time that has led me to this moment, nestled in my long time hammock by the Colorado river in Austin, I feel emotionally overwhelmed. A sense of appreciation, gratitude, and pride mix together and fill me with a simple joy. It is captivating, but a significant factor that comes from these feelings is understanding how I got here.

I come from a bi-cultural family of the upper middle-class tier. My father hails from a line of east coast Irish Catholics and my mother from a family of Brazilian Italians. My mother connected with a long lost relative in the United States through snail mail and quite directly, proposed she come pay a visit. So, months later, my mother immigrated from Brazil to Pleasanton, California in 1987 where she would study for a business certificate from Berkeley in California, work at McDonald’s to afford the lifestyle and have the opportunity to train her English language skills. She had no anticipation that she would meet and marry my father who was visiting Pleasanton for work travel at the time. It’s amazing, from different sides of the world, they managed to find each other by way of their relatives having immigrated to the U.S. at completely different times at opposite ends of the earth. The likelihood that they would attend a Halloween Party in a sleepy town, seems like a million to one. However, they met and though my mother was not falling for my father’s charm at first. He got her.

Aside from having immigrant families and enjoying the wearing of costumes, my parents have something else in common. They each unfortunately came from broken homes. Raised amidst divorces and financial complications that usually follow, my mother and father suffered from feelings of insecurity. I’ve heard dozens of times from my father that him and mom wanted to give my brother and I a childhood that they did not have. One that was light, optimistic, adventurous and full of love.

So, they worked hard and they even though retired today, continue to do so. Starting out as a secretary in Brazil and climbing her way up at the bottom in the U.S., my mother demonstrated her relentless determination to achieve a successful career in marketing. She missed many sit down dinners, but now when I look back I do not lament on the dinners that she missed, but am proud of her for being a Latin woman who bought food for the table. My father worked full time as well, usually as a project manager for various tech companies. Yet, I know him best as taking on the project at home as the family rock, peacemaker, and listener. These two make an awesome team. With hard work, discipline, vision, and love for each other, they planned and executed their lives together with Eric and I riding in the back seat. They made sure we got into good schools, rode tandem bikes with us almost every week, gave us the space to have our own bedrooms, cut a salad for us for every dinner, purchased Christmas gifts that always littered the tree, and they penny pinched so my brother and I could go to college without worrying about student loans. It would be impossible to count all their contributions. In my parents embracing arms, I have received so much love, care, and comfort which has given me the confidence to try almost anything once. It is in the influence of their love, that gas given me the courage to adventure.

Every now and then I am shocked at how many years it has taken me to realize what a privilege it is to have the family I do. I choose to use the word “privilege” because to have such a blessing is certainly not considered a right.

When I return to the river, I am different, a woman with more gratitude to uncover. Today, I am grateful that I was taught to swim.