My Friend's Parents
As a kid, I would go to India with my parents and we'd be dragged to random people's houses for chai and a quick visit. Sometimes it would be family members, but from time to time, my parents would go visit the parents of their friends. I never really understood why--they weren't necessarily close with their friends' parents, why go visit them? I'm finally understanding why.
I left for college, 999 km or a 9.5h drive, with I was 16. I had blindly applied to my university based on rankings for the programs I was interested in (at the time, it was Accounting), and made my decision based on photos online, rankings and proximity to family--the last point being my parents' choice. I'd like to say that it was a seamless transition and college was just as exciting and fun as all the Sweet Valley University books and Hollywood made it out to be. But it wasn't. Academically, it was fine, but socially is a different story.
I went to a state university so it seemed like everyone who went there was from the state or at least knew a few people who were going there, so they had built-in friends. And there I was, the girl from Canada, who decided to attend, but didn't really know many people. I found myself eating lunch alone and spending my evenings watching Law&Order: SVU before I decided that this wasn't how I was going to spend the next 4 years and forced myself to join groups and socialize and make friends. And I did. What I didn't predict was the family that I was creating. Not only did I make friends with people, but families took me in, especially moms, especially when they'd hear that I was so far away from home. It wasn't uncommon for a mom to call her daughter/son and ask them what food I wanted so they could make it and send it back with their child after a weekend visit home. It was beyond sweet and as a result, I have been adopted into several families to which I can never articulate my feelings of gratitude around.
These auntys and uncles kind of became surrogate parents. They would take an interest in my life, they would invite me to their homes for events or just because. They would feed me. They would ask about my classes, and especially my love life. They would scold me and challenge me when they didn't agree with my choices. They would sit together and alter a blouse that was too small on me right before we had to go to yet another college friend's wedding. They sometimes had qualities that my own parents didn't which meant that I got the best of so many worlds! They invested in me their time, their concern, and their love. And I can see why--you want to know who your kids are friends with, and when you meet their good friends, you can find solace in the fact that they have a community of friends who have your kid's back, through thick and thin.
All those visits for chai wasn't just a visit for chai. It was a chance to check up on the aunty or uncle who was part of my parents' childhood/growing up. It was a way to extend the same care and concern they showed my parents growing up now that they were older and maybe their health wasn't as great. It was a way to check in on them, for their friend, who was maybe living in a different country. It was also a way to show their friends' parents how far they had come, so like any parent, they could feel that sense of pride.
To all of my friends' parents: thank you. Thank you for raising incredible children who I'm proud to call my friend. Thank you for taking me in and making me feel like I was part of the family. Thank you for all of the love and support (and food!) over the years. I'll be over for chai soon.