The weekend before Valentine’s Day my dad took my mom and I to a jewelry store. He said I was going to pick out anything I wanted, preferably a jewelry set. I was excited.
On our way to the store, my dad mentioned how low the gas tank was. “But I don’t have any money left,” my mom said softly and calmly. She turned around to look at me.
"I don’t have any money either, but we can charge it to my card I guess. I’m getting paid next week," I responded, avoiding eye contact with my mom.
When we got to the jewelry store, my dad said to pick out anything that I liked. Right away my eyes were drawn to a sparkling bracelet. “There’s only two left,” said a salesperson as she pulled the bracelet out for me to try.
"It’s so pretty!" I exclaimed, marveling at how perfect the silver looked against my skin.
"This one dad, I like this one,” I exclaimed excitedly to my dad, but then I saw the price - $180. "Uh, but it’s so expensive," I said.
"It’s okay, things like this are expensive. Don’t worry about the price. Let’s get it sized," my dad said.
"Wow this is so perfect," said the saleswoman as she sized the bracelet on me. "Need to take off exactly two cuffs. I can make it into a pair of earrings for you, that way you’ll have a matching set," remarked the woman. She sure knew how to sell. I lit up at the idea, but I looked at my dad and he said nothing, so I told the saleswoman, “We’ll hold off on that idea.”
"Come here dear, let’s look at these earrings here," my dad directed me over to the earrings. "I really like these gold ones."
"Yeah, I like those too. They’re really pretty, and the yellow beads go really well with the gold," I replied.
We looked around some more for earrings but none were as nice as the gold ones, so we decided to get them. It was another $80.
We paid a total of $240 for the bracelet and earrings. The saleswoman gave us a $20 discount since it was a Valentine’s Day present. My mom remained silent; she just followed my dad and I as we looked through the glass cabinets. She blankly stared at my dad has he took out $300 to pay for the jewelry.
The saleswoman asked if I wanted to wear the bracelet or have it wrapped.
I would have loved to wear it out of the store; loved to go to work the next day and show it off to my coworkers and brag, “Look what my dad bought me!” I would have loved to post it on Facebook, but instead I just smiled and told the saleswoman to wrap it. Then, I handed it to my dad.
At home, my mom wrapped the bracelet and earrings in a box of sparkly purple paper. She placed the gift box into a bigger box with other presents that my dad had purchased earlier in the week. After my mom finished taping the bigger box, my dad told me to address to ‘Vientiane, Laos.’ I was heartbroken. I felt paralyzed about what to do.
That is my 2014 Valentine’s Day story, but it’s my mom’s life. She saves every penny to provide for her family, feeling shameful when she has to ask her children to help, because her small paycheck can’t cover bills, food, and gas. Her husband, the father of her children, saves every penny to spend and provide for his girlfriends in Laos. She doesn’t feel she can leave; what would her life be without him, a husband.
"She’s tiny like you, and if it fits you, it should fit her," said my dad. So that’s why he took me to the jewelry shop – to help him choose, and size jewelry. And, he took my mom along to pay for gas.
"At least he paid for jewelry and shipping himself," said my mom, looking away so I wouldn’t see her tears.
-Anonymous, 23 years old, Minneapolis