“Leaving Home” by Jessica Gardien

Posted: June 3, 2013 in Vol. 3: Spring Essays 2013

file0001249793741I still remember that day I got on the plane to move to O‘ahu. I recall being excited, scared, and happy all at the same time. It was the beginning of a new chapter for me, and a chance to prove that I could make it out in the world. I think it’s like that for a lot of people, especially for young adults going out to college. We are excited and ready for the freedom from parents and familiarity, but at the same time afraid to fail and afraid of being alone. I love hearing about other people’s experience on leaving home and comparing it to my own. Hearing other people’s stories also helps me learn how to deal with my own homesickness and how to make the best out of my own situation. Out of all the stories I’ve heard so far, my mother’s story has encouraged me to do my best and taught me the importance of having a home. She talked about going into the Navy right after graduating from high school. Through her story I learned a lot about her struggles while away from home, especially while she was in boot camp, and what she gained from this whole experience.

My mom graduated from high school in 1988 and got into Notre Dame in California, but she decided to go into the Navy. After getting the call from the Navy recruiter saying that she had got in, she told me, “My parents didn’t support me at all at first, but they needed to sign the papers for me since I was under 18, so I threatened not do anything if they refused to sign.”  When she told me this, I was surprised by my mother’s courage and determination. Everyone who knew my grandparents described them as really strict, so I was shocked to hear that they had actually given in. I’m happy that they did because if it weren’t for her experiences in the military, she wouldn’t be the strong and amazing person she is today, and I probably wouldn’t be the same person either since she met my father in the Navy. My mom says that she did feel bad about threatening her parents, and that she probably would have gone to school if they had not signed, but because she didn’t really know what she wanted to do at the time, she figured it was better if she went into the military. Even aside from her parents’ disapproval, it was a hard decision for her because she did have a boyfriend who said he would wait for her. I can’t even imagine what was going through her head during that time, but I’m happy she took the route she did.

“So I went to boot camp, which was six and a half weeks of hell in Florida,” my mom continued on. She was only allowed one phone call when she got to Florida and one phone call when she graduated. The rest of the time she and her parents communicated through letters. My grandparents didn’t have a message recorder, so if they weren’t home when she called it was too bad for everyone. I can’t imagine how my mother must have felt throughout her time at Florida. She had left her home on bad terms with her parents and could only express how sorry she was through her letters. ”Boot camp today is not like boot camp was when I was in it,” she explained, “There were a lot of mind games involved as well as physical stress. The only thing that kept me going was writing letters.”  I can’t believe that she continued with her training even though she knew her parents disapproved of her even being there in the first place, and how difficult it was to endure. I give my mom a lot of credit for going through boot camp and carrying that kind of weight on her, and it only increases my admiration for her.

Three days before her six and a half weeks were finished, she received a package from my grandma containing a letter and six boxes of chocolates. The letter expressed how proud my grandma and grandpa were of my mom because she was going someplace in the world. Just hearing my mom talk about that letter makes me smile because I can hear how happy that memory makes her. She told me that she still has that letter, which makes me happy, and I hope one day I will get the chance to read it. The eight boxes of chocolate were also a real treat since my grandparents didn’t allow much candy eating, but my mom was unable to enjoy those as much because they went against boot camp regulations. “The person in charge of me took the boxes away and gathered everyone,” she said almost laughing. I was a little horrified when she said all the cadets had to stand around the people in charge to watch them enjoy all the chocolates. I thought that was really cruel, and I felt really bad for my mom because she couldn’t even taste one. But after thinking about it, I figured that it wasn’t such a big deal to my mom since she knew her parents were proud and had shown that they cared about her.

After boot camp my mom had to go to technical training for a year, so she was unable to go home. Once she graduated from there, she took leave and all her money to visit home. “I remember it cost twenty-five dollars to fly from O‘ahu to the Big Island,” she told me, which showed how excited she was to get home. My grandparents didn’t realize she was visiting home until she had reached O‘ahu to tell them. She went on to tell me that she wore her uniform on the plane just so that her parents could see her. In my mind, I could see my mom smiling and looking so happy to return home. When she talked about seeing her parents at the airport, I could hear how happy she must have been, and how much she had missed them during her time away. My mom told me that the first thing she did after getting picked up is visit her grandpa, who was 94. That night, my mom said they had a family get-together. “It was so nice being surrounded by family and friends,” she said. This reminded me of all the get-togethers my family holds when I come to visit and how much fun and love the night would be filled with. “The best thing about coming home was being able to wake up in my pajamas and riding my horse with no saddle on,” she said. I’m glad my mom was able to go back home and do the things she enjoyed. She had worked hard at boot camp and at school and she was able to come home to a loving family.

My mom ended the interview by saying: “This is a great memory for me because we live in such a beautiful place and we take it for granted. I was one of those people until I went out to explore the world a little. Going out makes you appreciate home because when you are away from family and friends everything is new and different. You learn to appreciate your family more because they aren’t always there like they usually are. Home is home and that’s one of the things you cannot replace in life.”

Her sharing this with me showed me why she has such a deep appreciation for home. My family members would always tell me what a trouble maker my mom was as a kid, and a lot of times I didn’t believe them since my mom spent the majority of my life lecturing me about respect and listening to those older than me. She would tell me how once you lose the respect from your family, you lose everything since they are the ones that will help you out more than anyone. “A lot of the kids in this generation need to be put into the military,” is another thing she told me. A lot of times I think she’s right because many kids don’t know how to appreciate their homes and families. They think that they can make it out in the world on their own, but they don’t take the time to think that their parents are always there when they are in trouble, when they are hungry, and when they need or want something. I thank my mom a lot for implanting these types of good values into my brain before I went out in the world to live my life.

This experience also helped me understand why she pushed my older brother to join the military. Like my mom, he was unsure of what he wanted to do in life, but my mom wanted him to do something, not nothing. At first he was totally against my mom’s proposal that he had to either go to college or join the military, but it has changed him completely and he knows that my mom had good intentions at heart. Now he knows that he wants to be a teacher, and it’s because my mom pushed him out the door and into the world. “He tells me he loves me now after every phone call,” my mom said. This sort of amazed me because he had always been the type to hide his emotions.

For myself, leaving home was a much easier thing to do. I stayed at home and attended Kaua‘i Community College for a year. When I left, I was of course sad but I was only moving an island away, not across the nation like my brother had done. Also, my mom now works for the Air National Guard on both Kaua‘i and O‘ahu, so I get too see her at least once every month. Her advice has always helped me, and has given me a deeper appreciation for my home and my family.

In many ways, her story has made me understand my mom better as a parent and a person. She is a strong individual and I am grateful for all the things she has gone through to get to where she is now. My mom has taught me lessons that I would have only gained through experience if she had not gone through them before me. I thank her for passing on her knowledge to help me get through life much more easily than she had to. Home is now something I appreciate more, and I am grateful that I can see my mom often and go home whenever I need to. When I was a teenager, I didn’t have that kind of thinking. I was like any other teenager thinking that I was right and my parents were just there to make my life harder than it already was. Now my mom is the person I turn to because she always has some kind of story or lesson that can help my life, and I am truly grateful for everything she has done for me.


Written for Cara Chang’s ENG 200: Composition II


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