I remember the days well, as if they passed only yesterday.
Countless mornings throughout the school year, my mom drove my sisters and I to and from school. We lived about half an hour from our beloved elementary and high school, Koinonia Academy. For each of those thirty minutes during our drive, my mom was our teacher. One of the first things she taught us, aside from the importance of seat-belt safety, was prayer. The instant we buckled in and the car put into drive, we started reciting our prayers. Imbedded in our memories after hearing them hundreds of times, inadvertently we would say the prayers usually half meaningfully. Our minds drifted as we looked out the window towards the stores we passed along the way. Passing the Chuck E Cheese always made me think of their delicious pizza, interactive games, and the last time I had been there, all while reciting the “Angel of God” prayer. My thoughts and daydreams to return to the glory that is Chuck E Cheese shattered when my mom noticed my inattentiveness through the rear view mirror. “Xiomara, cierra tus ojos.” (“Xiomara, close your eyes.”)
“But mom,” I pleaded, “I can pray with my eyes open, it keeps me aware of my surroundings”. My mom didn’t buy that. Reluctantly, I closed my eyes and for the next 27 minutes with an occasional peep to see how much longer until we arrived at school. My 2nd grade self couldn’t wait till we got there. We would sing worship songs, pray a few decades of the rosary, and my mom, my two sisters and myself would then say our own personal prayer aloud. When the last line of prayer was said “Divino Nino Jesus, bendicenos”. I knew to open my eyes, and by this point, we were usually a block away from school, and it was almost always 8:28, with school starting at 8:30. We thanked our mom for driving us, grabbed our backpacks from the back seat, and would run out of the car, grateful to see, with our eyes squinting adjusting to the harsh bright sun. We knew most of the drive home later that afternoon would be spent in prayer as well. But we were used to this routine, and our main focus upon leaving the car was to get to class before the bell rang.
I remember these moments with much joy. I laugh as I think of the way my sister and I would open one eye during prayer time just to make sure that the other had her eyes closed. If we found ourselves both peeping, we would immediately tell our Mom, who would say that we needed to keep our eyes closed. A Colombian, with a devotion to the Divine Child Jesus, my mom wanted to teach us our prayers, and the importance of developing a personal and lived out relationship with God. My mom taught these life lessons not only through the different recitations of prayers, but in her actions.
For the next couple of years, until my eldest sister began teaching at our school, and assumed the role of driver, my mom would drive us every morning and pick us up every afternoon. Totaling two hours in the car (with almost an hour spent in prayer with us), my mom wanted to instill her love for God in us, and despite the trouble it was to keep our eyes closed, I am so grateful for my mom’s love in driving and praying with us. We ran from the car each morning truly educated and immersed in our mother’s language of love. I don’t even think we realized it. We had a full day of learning ahead of us, but those morning love lessons are what I hold most dear.
Through driving us without ever once complaining, my mom showed us what love in action is. Likewise, my dad worked most of the day to pay for our education at KA. Their love, in action, is so beautiful to witness and to experience. Their commitment to our education was and continues to be so prevalent through my life, and my sisters’ as well.
There were sacrifices involved in my sister’s and my education, but in my parent’s love for us, they saw the worth in it. I would not be where I am today without their love and their instilling in us the value of learning, education, and prayer. I am beyond grateful for these life lessons that have stuck with me for all these years. To this day, even a mental prayer is necessary the moment after buckling in the car. To take time and give thanks for God’s gifts in my life, I think of my mom saying, “Xiomara, cierra tus ojos”.