It was my birthday and we were sitting at the table of the dorm while I opened some presents the girls had gathered for me.
Some of them got together and got me three balloons – oh, how I used to love balloons – and a funny card. The last little gift was a CD (this CD. Don’t judge, I was seventeen) that Ivette gave me. I squealed and gave her a hug and ran to get the radio.
Laura made a comment about how I made a CD such a big deal when she had spent so much time thinking about what to give me, had she known it was that easy she would’ve gotten me another one.
That’s when Ivette gave me one of the best compliments I’ve ever received to this day: “c’mon, it’s narami. You could give her a freaking rock with a bow and she’ll not only be happy about it, but thankful. She’s the humblest person in the world.”
“Do you mean that?” I said.
“Of course, you could be a stuck up bitch but you are so down to earth.” She pulled my hair and walked out.
What Ivette meant was that I’m an only child and my parents never gave me more than I deserved so I behave like a normal human being. For every holiday and for my birthday I always had one gift. Whenever I wanted something I had to earn it. If I had a list of materials I needed my mom would give me just short of the money that I needed and told me to make a priority list so I could buy the things I needed the most. If I wanted a tuna sandwich my mom would tell me go make two, one for her and one for me. I was never treated like the world revolved around me.
(In contrast to how manfriend – who has two siblings – was raised thinking that if a star moves is because he ordered it. To this day his mom foresees and provides all his needs. I’m not even exaggerating: before he goes anywhere she asks him if he has his wallet, cell phone and keys.)
I felt so big and accomplished, but mostly I felt proud because one of the things I wanted to inherit from my mother was her humbleness. It distinguishes her. She grew up in a house that had three maids, a chauffeur. She could ask for a shopping trip and someone would take her to every store she wanted to visit in San Juan. She left all that behind for my dad and never flinched about it. I have never heard her complaining.
One of the moments where I remember how she taught me to be humble by example was the day a store clerk treated her badly. She had just gotten part of her inheritance and had in her purse a few thousands dollars. She took me shopping. We saw handmade beaded hand bags in a store and she took me in to get me one. Except, because she was wearing a simple outfit and not a lot of jewellery, the clerk reluctantly looked at her only to tell her that those purses were very expensive and she wasn’t taking them down to let us see them. I was all appalled and began talking “but she has enough money!” when my mom put her arm around me and gently guided me outside while saying “have a good day” to the clerk.
“Why didn’t you say anything?!” I was outraged (youth). My mom said “it’s not worth it. I don’t need her to know I have money, she should do her job regardless. But in any case, I’d rather she was sincere. That way I can spend the money in another store where another respectful clerk can earn a good commission.”
Lately I often feel underappreciated. Most of my work goes unnoticed and I can count with one hand the amount of times I’ve been thanked for anything I’ve done while I’ve been here. (In my house please and thank you were HUGE things. I believe manfriend’s family has never included those words in their vocabulary.) But I remember my most prized trait and I smile in silence.
I can be thankful l because I’m humble.