Where I grew up your life is pretty much mapped out for you. You are expected to be respectful of your elders, help your mother with all house chores, take care of your siblings if you have any, which everybody did, and remember to obey your father.
His word is law.
You have to pray, work hard at getting an education, which you deem worthless, and marry someone of «your choice», but really you’ll eventually realize when you’ve found that special person that he must have the right religion, the right line of work and the right color in that order. If he isn’t then you’ll be told you can’t marry him. Then an alarm will start sounding in your head with the voice of the operator repeatedly telling you to find the closest exit, but you can’t find it because you are totally confused suffocating on a lack of oxygen. Except, you are not caught in a fire, you just realized that Somehow at school you have misunderstood the definition of the word «choice» completely. All this bullshit about the right to be free to make your own choices and to speak your own mind are just an illusion or an utopian dream best achieve in the classroom, best live through the proses of the enlightenment thinkers.
But in reality, this freedom I thought I had hangs like a veil over my face covering what lies underneath;
I sound like a muslim virgin with an imam father, but I’m not. Virgin I was, since you weren’t allowed to have sex before marriage, but I come from a catholic family. My mom was always a catholic at heart but rarely practiced it until she somehow, after going into life as a retiree, spent quite a lot of time devoted to God and the church. Gradually, all the words in the Bible became law in her eyes and she found in me a woman living in sin, as she likes to constantly reminding me every chance she got.
My dad on the other end was never pious. However, when my siblings and I were younger and complained about mother sending us to church, he’ll always tell us to listen to our mother. I remember a day like this.
It was a Saturday afternoon and I must have been around nine or ten when my mother asked me to go bath and prepare myself for church.
We don’t go to church as a family. Children and adults are segregated, at least theoretically. Some adults do come to children’s mass on Saturday, but not mother. At the time, she rarely made it to mass. But she made sure we, children, attend. But that day, I didn’t want to go to mass, so I stomped my feet on the ground and expressed my rejection quite petulantly. Mom gave me a look that command my obedience, a trait I inherited from her by the way and use effectively with my students today when I’m displeased with their behavior. No word. Just the look. And let me tell you, if looks could kill I would be six feet under already.
Understanding I’ll get nowhere with mum, I went to my dad instead and asked him to talk to mum about my problem. He looked at me with the kindest of eyes, a contrast to my mother’s and his own personality, and said, «Do what ya mother tells you.»
I asked him how come he didn’t go to church. He said, «I do go to church on weddings and funerals.»
«So do I» I answered, «I went to grandpa and grandma’s funeral and I went to aunt Josique’s wedding. So why can’t I skip mass?»
Let’s pause a second…
you have to understand something before I continue the story. In my family, you don’t question your elders and my father wouldn’t have it nor would my mother. These two always stick together when it comes to us children. Even when they are mad at each other they’ll stay united when dealing with us. Later, this particular dynamic between my parents will play a big role in the worst and best moments of my life.
Anyway, my dad glared at me and parroted my mother, «go prepare yourself for church!»
His voice held such finality that I had no choice but to bow from the argument, which really wasn’t an argument at all, but a merry lapse of judgement in my part, thinking my father would ever agree with me on anything. For a minute that day, I forgot who I was and little did I know at the time that I had just started the first rebellion of many to come.