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In high school my mother was always on my case about school and grades. She wasn’t mean or anything, but very detailed and strict on how education was very important. She would always lecture me on how it’s hard to find a job with no educational background, and if you did find a job it wouldn’t pay that much. As the oldest child of six, I was the one who got lectured. It was as annoying as a fly buzzing in your ear every five minutes.
My mom was 17 years old when she had me. It was a surprise and a mistake; I am only guessing by the way my mom talks about it. She grew up as the oldest of five kids. My grandma was never around and was considered a drunk, due to her alcohol breath and never being able to stand on her own whenever she came to visit. My mom had to mature and take over at a very young age. She grew up in dorms on boarding school campuses. She never liked it because the teachers had every right to punish you when you were not cooperative. Most of the girls in the dorm, especially the older ones, would tease you till you cried, or just beat your ass to the cold, hard floor whenever they wanted. So my mom had a rough childhood. She never finished high school due to moving around, and her high school records got lost. I am just telling you the small details on how hard my mom’s life was, which is why she is so hard-headed about our educational level and accomplishments.
Anyways enough about my mom. I was an A+ student through high school except freshmen year. I was too obsessed with friends and boys, but I learned my lesson when my mother came to school and embarrassed me in front of my friends. It was nothing serious and everyone else called it “tough love,” which young people don’t get very often due to neglect from their parents. So high school went by and senior year arrived. Of course, I had already applied for colleges so Mommy would be proud.
One day my mom said she needed my help. I agreed and tagged along to a residence that was beautiful and big. I had never seen it before. She told me it was one of her relatives that needed help butchering a sheep. So there I was helping butcher, cook, and clean for a whole hot day. When I finally realized there were about two different families there doing the same thing, I was suspicious but did not ask questions. I thought it was a big ceremony thing, so I didn’t ask what was going on. Maybe I should have.
That event passed with no explanations or questions, so I went on with my life as a senior. At this time it was about four months till graduation and I was on a roll with attendance and grades. It never came to mind about what was going to happen after graduation. It was settled that I would go straight to college. Graduation came and went like how the sun comes and goes. I was all set to go to college and so the summer was like a little break.
I was sitting around enjoying my first week of summer when my mother approached me with shocking, disturbing, unforgiving news. She told me I was going to get married the next week.
I was furious and sad. I cried, telling her I would never talk to her again. But it was final. It was the reason why she took me to that event where I was stuck doing all the chores. It was a competition to see who the better Navajo woman was, who knew her duties around home and as a traditional woman. I was mad, but I kind of knew it was coming.
My mother always said, “As my oldest child you’re going to get an arranged marriage.” I always thought it was a verbal warning just to keep me focused, but I guess it wasn’t. I was confused with a puzzled expression upon my face. I had misjudged my mother. I asked, why marriage when the main topic throughout my teen years was education?
She simply said, “I want the best for you and a good future. You are still going to school and will become whatever you want to be, but I also don’t want you to do this alone. I wish my parents thought of me when I was growing up like I am doing for you, so don’t think this is a bad thing that I did to you.”
I got married in June 11th, a Saturday, and had never seen my husband till the wedding day. And surprise, surprise I knew him from high school. It was the most embarrassing moment—standing there face-to-face trying not to laugh or cry in front of everyone. I knew a little about him, like how he was a week older then me and how we liked the same football team. I just never in my mind knew it was going to be him.
My plans were never neglected or forgotten. I did go to school and so did he, and now we are both graduating again. I have been married two years with no kids. I am happy with my husband and the future arrangement my mother made for me.
Now, I have to get her off my back about grandchildren.
Justina Thomas (Diné) is from Ganado, Arizona, and is studying to become a nurse at Navajo Technical University. She hopes to do something in life that will help others.