Today, September 21, falls in the latter category for me and my parents. It was on this day 18 years ago I flew back East to go to prep school for the first time.
The roots of this moment took hold more than a year earlier when my East L.A. junior high school set up a scholarship program in which two or three kids would go to a New England boarding school starting with their sophomore year of high school (we were grades 7-9 at the time). I was in eighth grade then and I figured if I kept getting strong grades, I might have a shot at this.
A year later, the first two students from our school go East. What we didn't know at the time was that one of them got terribly homesick and decided to come back after only one week.
I was sitting in math class on Wednesday, September 18, when an office messenger came in and handed a note to the teacher. The teacher looked confused, but then walked up to my desk and handed me the note. I needed to see
I get to
I said I would.
It seemed like a golden opportunity to get a better education, which would lead to better options for college and beyond. Plus, I was 14 years old so it wasn't like I was fully able to comprehend exactly what I was about to embark on. So leading up to it and even when I first got to my new school, I was pretty calm. It was all happening so fast that there really was no time to feel homesick or overwhelmed.
My parents, however, were another story. I'm an only child, so to have to tell them that I was going to go away to school at 14 and, oh yeah, that they only have three days to wrap their heads around that concept was quite jarring.
They came in that afternoon to speak with
Finally, they looked at me and asked me if I wanted to do this. After I said yes, they said (at great pain, by the looks on their faces) they would do everything to support me. I don't know what would have happened if they had said no, but deep down I figured they would understand. They always stressed education with me and even though it was now unfolding in a surprising manner, they remained supportive. For which I'm eternally grateful.
After two days of frantic packing, Saturday morning came. It was time to go to the airport and start a journey that would eventually take us to places previously unseen by the family. A high school and college graduation. A son's life built primarily on the East Coast. Grandchildren born in Manhattan, with grandparents who were born in rural Mexico.
It's a quiet life we've carved for ourselves out here, with children, school, errands and work filling most of our days. But I always wonder how different it would have been if it hadn't been for what happened on this day 18 years ago, when everything changed.