The first time I ever heard about MIT, I was a sophomore in high school. I immediately decided that was where I would go to college.
It turns out that very few people in my community had any idea what MIT was. In fact, since most college-bound graduates from Del Rio high school go on to Texas-based schools, most people didn’t even know what the initials stood for.
After I had been talking MIT this and MIT that for a few days, my mom started asking questions. I’m sure she asked me plenty of things, like “Why MIT?” or “What will you study?” But to be honest, I can only remember the last question she asked.
“What is MIT short for?”
As the “setts” from “Massachusetts” left my mouth, my mom burst into tears.
Up to that point, it hadn’t dawned on me that the distance would be an issue. I felt terrible and made a point of not bring up anything MIT after that. Days passed. Eventually, my mom pulled me aside and apologized. She explained that she and my father had been raised to keep family close by. She told me that she felt she was just being selfish. And, before bursting into tears again, she made a promise.
“This is important to you and I want to be supportive. I promise I won’t cry the day that you leave.”
I was a sophomore when she made that promise. For two years, at random, my mom would look over at me and cry. Well equipped with a good sense of humor, she would wave off my concern with some funny comment. She let it become a bit of an inside joke, mostly to keep me from feeling guilty, I’m sure.
When my ride to the San Antonio airport arrived, I turned to my parents to say goodbye. My dad gave me a quick hug and then grabbed my bags. My mom hugged me firmly and for a long, long time.
It was clear that she was brimming with things she wanted to tell me, but her throat was so tight that saying anything without crying would be difficult. Keeping true to her word, she mustered up what she could to send me off with one crucial piece of tearless advice.
“Mija. Don’t …. talk ….. to …… strangers!”
As much as we have laughed about it since then, I know what a gift it was she gave me. I cannot help but marvel at the strength it takes to love like this.
(Thank you, Mom!)