I know we’ve talked about this before, but somehow the reel in my memory doesn’t know how to change the movie that it created about that road trip we made from Houston to El Salvador when I was about six years old. You’ve told me I have the details wrong, but I still love my version of the story much more and I’m sticking to it.
In my story, you and mi papi had just gotten separated and you had packed everything up into one van and a brand new Mustang that would take my little sister, my aunt — who was barely 18 at the time — your friend and her daughter, plus you and me on a road trip through four countries to get us to El Salvador so we could settle there as our new home was waiting for us.
You must have been 25 or 26 years and the oldest of the traveling group of fierce women and girls that were together leaning in to this new life on a road to a newfound freedom. You were at the realm of this charge and nothing was going to hold you back.
That van and Mustang were packed to the brim with household appliances, electronics and new clothes you were taking to El Salvador to sell and start a new life. Even the van and the shiny Mustang were a calculated part of the plan to help us start all over.
Not that I knew that then. I was joyfully clueless — or so I think. I really don’t have many memories of how I felt those days. My movie is missing the feelings track. I can only imagine the sudden move, leaving my dad and the only life I knew behind must have been a shock to my senses. I wished I knew.
What I do know is that the trip gifted me with the most amazing sunset I had ever seen. It was in the middle of some desert in Mexico. I can also remember the taste of Oaxacan string cheese and how much I wanted more and more. The most vivid memory of all is our visit to the Villa de Guadalupe in Mexico City. You’ve always been devout to the Virgen de Guadalupe and stopping to pay her a visit so she could bless our new life was a detour that was non negotiable. That day I became a believer as well. I’m still not religious, but I am a believer and you gave me that.
I have never told you how symbolic the memories of that road trip are for me. At that moment you taught me that women are not to be victims. You taught me we are in control of our lives and our hands must always be on the steering wheel. You taught me to be fearless and take on the road towards my dreams anytime.
It doesn’t really matter if my brain has jumbled up different bits and pieces from a couple road trips from Houston to El Salvador; what matters is that the puzzle I’ve put together shows a picture of a woman who always leans in to what she wants and does it with love. I am part of that picture and I love you for that.
La quiero mucho,
We’re celebrating Mother’s Day by celebrating leaning in to motherhood, and by recognizing the extraordinary women that are our own mothers. We hope that it will inspire you to thank your own mother, or the mother who most inspires you. Find more letters and stories about leaning into motherhood here. And, of course, find your own Lean In inspiration at LeanIn.org.