Being surrounded by strong individuals all my life has helped to shape and mold me into the person I am, and the person I hope to be. Having these strong and independent individuals in my family alone has helped to guide me on the right path and given me the confidence and resources I need in order to flourish on my own. Although I am now a nineteen year old sophomore in college who has traveled halfway across the country from Arizona to live in the big city of Chicago alone, a gift that I received from my family when I was thirteen still continues to show me how fortunate I am to have a home like mine.
They say that “adolescence is a period of life with specific health and developmental needs and rights. It is also a time to develop knowledge and skills, learn to manage emotions and relationships, and acquire attributes and abilities that will be important for enjoying the adolescent years and assuming adult roles.” (World Health) When I was thirteen and in my adolescence I honestly felt lost. I was not the most loving and appreciative child that one could ask for and starting highschool I was terrified about growing up. I desperately wanted to amount to something, and knowing how hard working my family was and how strong my parents were, almost felt like a burden because I was the oldest. Of course, like any thirteen year old, there was a point in my life where I wanted nothing to do with my family. I felt trapped and rebellious but quickly learned to start to appreciate where I came from when my Mother gave me a book of letters from my family members describing their lives at the age of thirteen.
It was my very own “Thirteen Book.”
My “Thirteen Book” was filled with letters from my Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents, along with good friends of my parents. The stories they shared about personal loss and gain and what they felt when they were thirteen was extremely emotional and touching. Each page was carefully and lovingly decorated with pictures of my childhood containing memories I had forgotten growing up. Along with each letter contained a picture of the family member or friend writing to me and the times we spent together. Being a Mexican American, Native American, and a proud Filipino, only added to half the emotions I felt and still feel for the “Thirteen Book.” This was something I had not expected to have been gifted as a thirteen year old because the emotional extent of what had just been gifted to me was something I had not experienced. Now, as I continue to grow and learn from all that life has been kind enough to give me; the
unbearable and the excitement of college itself, I catch myself consciously and subconsciously reading from this “Thirteen Book.”
One letter in particular, that of my Grandfather on my Mother’s side, still continues to show me how unbelievably strong my family is. I buried my Grandfather when I was seventeen, and maybe the calamity of his death is what continues to draw me to his life, or perhaps it was the time I selfishly missed before he passed. In the year 1947, my Grandfather was a thirteen year old boy from Arkansas, Malvern living in their first house with only two bedrooms. At that time he attended, “Malvern Highschool, all grade levels first through twelfth grade, I was in seventh grade and I walked over one mile to school everyday, some very hot, some very good.” My Grandfather was not the smartest and when he would write, every letter was capital, but there is something so innocent about his penmanship that it always brings a wave of sadness when I read his letter. He ended his letter to me with something I can never forget and a list of prices from various food items and places he’d go in 1947. His last words to me were, “It was a different time period, lost in time, far far from this world of today! “This most of all I can recall when I was thirteen.”
I still have yet to read every letter and every letter I do read, I have yet to really look at each word written. Maybe it is because I am scared of what I will read because the thought of crying or hearing someone’s story who is dear to me is too frightening to do. However, this “Thirteen Book” filled with memories and stories, I can not seem to part from. Each letter contains a different story filled with different perspectives that continues to give me strength to venture out into the world and reminds me that someone has already been here and is rooting for me.
And with what I have learned from my family and what I will continue to learn, is that there truly is no place like home.