I sometimes think about the summer day 27 years ago when the nurse delivered me to my parents, all bewildered and swaddled in a blanket, looking up at the mother and father who would raise me for the next two decades. Little did they know, they were just raising me to one day leave them.
When a child is born, parents think they are getting a gift. Little do they know that they'll inevitably lose us at some point, in one way or another. Some parents end up estranged from their children, either through their own actions or their children's actions. But for parents of daughters, that little girl they cradled in their arms eventually leaves home, makes a new family of her own and even changes her name.
It's something that I've only come to realize after marriage. Though I'm grateful and blessed to have incredibly welcoming and loving in-laws, part of me, in some inexplicable way, feels the tiniest tinge of guilt for fitting in with my new family. It's like I feel guilty for not feeling more homesick.
It hit me last fall, when I celebrated my first major holiday with my in-laws. In my new family, the celebration was an all-day party -- starting with prayers in the morning followed by a joyous day of gift-giving and feasting. It was crowded, it was loud, it was chaotic -- but it was actually really fun. So much so, that I didn't get a chance to pull away and put in a call to my parents to wish them a happy holiday until the very end of the night.
And when I heard their familiar voices, the image hit me. All during the day, while I was gorging on sweets and opening gifts without a care in the world, my parents were 600 miles away, having a far less lively day. Their home wasn't full of the sound of grandkids tearing away wrapping paper and gleefully playing with their new toys, there were no sounds of laughter echoing in their hallways. It was just the two of them, having a quiet day in, maybe sharing a dish of whatever dessert my mother made for the occasion.
Tears welled up in my eyes and the lump in my throat grew, made worse by the fact that they kept the conversation very short. Not because I felt like they didn't want to talk to me. But because they didn't want me to pull away from the festivities for too long. Because they're acutely aware that my new role is a wife and daughter-in-law in my new family, in addition to being a daughter to them.
I make it a point to tell my parents every single day that I love and miss them. But they don't like that second part. They both tell me, "You can love, but don't miss us." When I tell my mom, "I miss you," she won't reciprocate, for fears that it will make me homesick.
Ever since that moment last September, I've been aware of the balancing act I have between the different hats I wear. Geography also dictates that I won't be able to spend as much time with them, but I'm more cognizant of the disparity now.
I've adopted my new family's traditions, their camping trips, their summer barbecues and even their recipes. It's very different from my own upbringing. And that's OK.
Though my parents are hundreds of miles away and I can't count on seeing them more than a few times a year now, there's still a little part of them here in this city. It's the same city my mother moved to as a new bride, leaving her home, thousands of miles and an ocean away, to start a new life in the '80s. She too left her entire family, her country, her friends and everything familiar to be part of a new family.
So when I walk down the streets of my new home, sometimes feeling like a stranger in a city that's still not entirely familiar, I just remember that my mother walked the very same streets, feeling exactly as I do.