I can still see myself standing in the middle of the Budget parking lot, basking in the scent of rental cars, trying to imprint the moment in my memory for the rest of my life. My mom had just returned the car when the shuttle came to take my family and me to the Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the NCL Getaway. It was going to be my first time on a cruise and I felt jittery, as if pure sugar had just been injected straight into my veins.
Unlike other first generation Chinese immigrants who stash their earnings under their mattresses, my parents have always made it a point to take my brothers and me on vacation every year. We usually take road trips along the East Coast, but this year was special – it was my brother’s high school graduation, so we decided to splurge on a cruise to the Western Caribbean. When I told my friends about it, they didn’t understand why I was so excited. They believed that vacations were frivolous because it produced nothing tangible except for a stack of glossy pictures that would eventually be stashed away. I began to ponder if in fact I was being spoiled.
Our ship had just left the port when my brothers and I went up to the deck for the sailaway party while my parents went to the cabin to unpack. We never made it to the party, however. We were supposed to pass through the Garden Café in order to get to the deck, but with two food-crazed boys, ignoring the buffet was ludicrous thought. Immediately after we finished stuffing ourselves with Mediterranean grilled chicken, Italian sausage, and Pan-Asian fried noodles, we set out for the ropes course I had been dying to try on Deck 17. It was advertised as the largest ropes course at sea with an eight-foot long “walk-the-plank” highlight.
We waited on line for half an hour watching other kids venture onto the course. When it was my turn, one of the crew members operating the ropes course helped me get strapped up. He jokingly teased, “Have a nice swim!” as I made my way up the stairs. I gripped the sides of my shirt, hands clammy with cold sweat, placing my complete trust in a rope and a wooden beam to keep me from plunging over seventeen stories into the frigid sapphire waters below. The wind blew my hair into my face, preventing me from seeing anything but my own two timid feet and the endless ocean beneath.
It was here, this very moment, with the golden egg-yolk sun sinking into the watery horizon and the salty sweet sea air against my cheek when I realized how incredibly lucky I was to be walking the plank in the middle of the ocean. I had never once stopped to recognize the sheer effort my parents put together to make me and my brothers happy. I had failed to notice the planning, the overtime hours, and the sacrifices my parents put in to actualize our vacations every year. I was in fact spoiled because I had taken it all for granted – the ways my mom and dad made ends meet just for us to spend one week together as a family. Every day now, I wake up feeling unbelievably blessed to have parents who value family as more precious than anything else. Yes, I may have only fifteen cent glossy 4×6’s to show for the vacations I have taken, but memories are priceless, happiness is enduring, and family is golden.
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