The Gustavian Weekly

Roots and wings

By David Roland Opinion Columnist | November 22, 2013 | Opinion

David_RolandIt is amazing how low of a priority family can be for many college students.

Of course, this must be put  into context. Students are physically distant from home and are heavily focused on school throughout the semester. I’m not saying that our families are becoming foreign to us — rather, we assume we know all there is to know about loved ones. After all, we have lived with them most of our lives. So why do we need to delve deeply into a topic that is so familiar?

Let it be known that I have an eccentric mother. On my way to a choir concert last family weekend, I turned to see her sprinting  over to give me an enormous hug in front of my entire choir. Needless to say, I was a little embarrassed. To be truthful, I think she prides herself in her ability to embarrass me at any moment in time.

She does a lot more than embarrass me. Besides being a mom, she is also the mayor of Apple Valley, MN, serves on the Metropolitan Council, is the Past President of the League of Minnesota Cities, a Director of the National League of Cities, and has raised four rambunctious children on her own. Even though she’s high-caliber and heavily involved in the community, I think of her as my mom first.

Sometimes we get caught up in the embarrassment of families — the perfectly-timed public displays of affection, the never-ending embarrassing childhood stories we wish would just go away. That’s the way families are. But rather than appreciating and trying to learn about the lives of those who raised us, our friends, neighbors, and professors soon become our family when we leave the nest. We neglect to appreciate our parents.

Even though we are away from our families, it doesn’t mean we need to completely disconnect ourselves from them nor does it mean to only appreciate the company of your family. We need to learn about our parents.

Without a sturdy system of roots, a tree will collapse. Creative Commons

Without a sturdy system of roots, a tree will collapse. Creative Commons

For me, the history of my parents was eclipsed by the death of my father, who passed away before I was born. Because I never had the opportunity to meet him, I spent my childhood watching videos, reading his books and journals, and learning about what comprised him. I read my dad’s writings because I want to learn more about him, but I also realized that this whole time,  I was imagining meeting my father, yet I failed to ask about the other half of my parentage.

Out of my intrigue for the unknown, I had neglected learning about my mother’s life; it was not a priority, it did not hold as much curiosity for me. It wasn’t until recently that I have started asking my mom about how she lives. Being a widower with three girls, and a fourth on the way was  no easy task, but she did it, and I will always be immensely proud and grateful of her journey.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, I encourage you to not only enjoy the company of your family as a whole, but also to explore the lives of people who brought you into this world more closely.

Learn how they lived. Learn the stories of their journey. Our parents’ journey is a part of ours as well. Learning where you come from can enrich your existence, especially during a formidable and influential time in your life such as college. Don’t wait until it’s too late to ask your parents about where they come from, what influenced them, and how they became the person they are today.

In the end, the two biggest things we receive from our parents are roots and wings. Make sure you don’t fly away from the nest without learning about what grounds you.

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