SWEAT COVERS MY forehead as I unpack yet another box. Funny, how I had no idea I held so much unnecessary crap until I had to pack and unpack boxes. Making me think, Hmm, do I really need this? Next thing I know, it's thrown in the trash.
With the help of my mom, I threw out three garbage bags filled with old college stuff—term papers, books, and projects. I held on to these things thinking that maybe I'd need them in future classes or even in my own classroom when I became a teacher—like many of my professors warned, but no.
None of the strategies they taught me or theories I had memorized have helped me throughout my first months of substituting. It's all been pretty much a catastrophe, and no, I'm not talking about the students. The kids are great; I love the kids. The parents, on the other hand, are a handful.
My college courses predominantly focused on teaching diverse classes and the not one-size-fits-all teaching method, but we should've had a full course on dealing with crazy, overprotective, think they know-it-all parents.
I'm truly looking forward to having my own classroom in a new school this in the most spontaneous city in the United States. Hopefully, southern parents are a bit laid-back.
I look around the spacious living room and see mountains of boxes stacked neatly on the deep brown, hickory hardwood floors. The white trimming on the gray walls gives the room a sophisticated guise.
Despite the multitude of boxes, I don't own many things, mostly my collection of romance books and clothes.
My parents wanted me to bring my old twin bed, but I told them that a twenty-two-year-old woman could not be sleeping in a twin bed. I also had other reasons but decided to keep those to myself. No need to bring back old memories or a ghostly past.
After spending the last two days sleeping on an air mattress, while my parents were a few blocks away in a comfy hotel bed, I realized that I should've at least brought my old mattress. But then I think of the new bedroom furniture I bought from IKEA and I'm glad I didn't bring any of my old furniture.
My phone beeps loudly by my side. I pick it up and tap on the screen to view the message.
Oh, dear! How I love Miami. We've gone to so many stores. The malls here are marvelous. Your father got a bit carried away and ordered you some living room furniture; among some other things.... He fell in love with a desk that I've told him won't fit in his tiny new office, but he won't listen. Thankfully, they don't deliver to Pennsylvania. That man is as stubborn as a mule. Anyway, we'll be there in 20 minutes to help you unpack the last of the boxes and say goodbye. -Mom xo
I reach down for my water bottle and take a much-needed sip. My parents are the best parents I could've ever asked for. They're selfless and give as much as they have, even if they need it themselves. It's one of the things they taught Jess and me—to treat others with kindness and speak of beauty when seen.
Sending back a text, I make sure to end it with my name. Mom still doesn't understand how caller ID works, so whenever she calls me or types a text, she makes sure to sign it with her name and tell me it's her who's calling. Sometimes I play around with her and text back a who's this? which makes her hair hit the ceiling.
I'm sure it won't fit. Dad has horrible space coordination, haha. Don't tell him I said that. Thanks for everything Mom, you really didn't have to buy me anything. I love you. -Genna x
I stand up and walk towards the balcony of my new one-bedroom apartment. As I slide the door open, a gust of warm Miami breeze ruffles my hair. I breathe in the salty air of the ocean, and just on the horizon, deep-blue waves begin to form and crash in unison against the glittering sand.
Galeton could never compare to this. Where Galeton is small with the few hundreds of the same faces you see every day, Miami is grandiose with such diverse populations. Every day, you'd encounter a new face, of that I'm sure.
This city takes my breath away. In the middle of November, the temperature is a high eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit.
It's a tropical paradise, like being on vacation every day for the rest of existence.
I don't know how long I've been captivated by the scenery, but when the front door opens, I jolt with excitement.
Swiveling my body around, I find both my parents with smiles on their faces, carrying a great deal of bags. HomeGoods, Pier 1 Imports, and...Petco? Why would Mom be holding a Petco bag? Just then, my eyes shift to my father who seems to be holding a small, white ball of fur with its tail moving side-to-side.
"Well," Dad says with the excitement I am not feeling. "Do you like your housewarming gift? What do you think?" He sets the energetic puppy on the floor.
I'm a tad confused as to why my parents got themselves a dog. Probably empty nest syndrome and they don't want to be alone. They're replacing me with a puppy. It's the only logical explanation I can come up with unless...no. Surely, the housewarming gift is what's hidden in those bags, right?
I chance a glimpse at my mom, undoubtedly thinking she had nothing to do with this, but she avoids my eyes and says, "Genevieve, I know exactly what you're thinking—" she puts the rest of the bags on the wooden floor and continues, "—and yes, at first, I was a bit apprehensive about the idea, but look at her!"
I shift my gaze to the puppy just as she adjusts her tiny paws on the hardwood floor. She tries to walk to me but fails miserably in staying upright, sliding her paws on the floor and stumbling over her short legs. I can't help but chuckle.
Mom grabs the dog off the floor and shoves her in my face. "Isn't she adorable?"
"I just don't understand why you would get yourselves a dog when your plane leaves back to Pennsylvania in a couple of hours. Don't you have to get her a passport or something?"
Mom and Dad stare at me like I'm a supernatural phenomenon and their eyes become as big as saucers. Their cheeks begin to turn a shade of bright red and they cover their mouths with their hands.
Just when they can't suppress their giggles any further, loud bursts of laughter echo off the vacant living room. Their laugh is so contagious that if it weren't for the fact that I still have no idea why this is so funny, I'd join in on their amusement.
"Genna, sweetheart," Dad says, his body shaking with mirth. "The puppy isn't for us. We got her for you."
He looks up at me with a hopeful smile as if begging me to agree and accept the puppy. But to be honest, I'm not sure I can take care of myself, let alone a dog. This is the first time I'll be living by myself. To top it all off, I'll be in a new state, miles away from home in a city bigger than any other I've ever been to before.
I can hear Mom murmuring under her breath, "I told you she wouldn't like it, Frank."
Dad grabs the pup from my mother's arms and I just know he's about to wilt me into keeping the dog. "Listen, sweetheart, this isn't Galeton. There are thousands of people here you need to watch out for. I just wanted to give you some protection; someone to come home to after work."
"Yeah, Dad, 'cause a Shih-Tzu will certainly keep burglars away," I point out, rolling my eyes in the process.
Dad raises a graying eyebrow—a sign to keep myself in check. He pets the dog behind the ears and her head tilts to the side in ecstasy; her eyes closing in unison.
"Just hold her. Come on."
The dog crawls up my chest and lays her minuscule paws on my shoulder. I love the smell of puppies, it's like homemade cookies on Christmas morning.
Big brown eyes, too big for her face, gaze up at me. She looks like an angel brought down from the sky. I stare at her in awe.
The coat of hair under her eyes look like roasted marshmallows. Just when I think I can't handle her cuteness any longer, the tiniest pink tongue comes up to lick her little button nose. She really does look like an angel.
Angelina, that could be her name.
"What were you saying, Sandy?" Dad asks my mom, giving her an I-told-you-so look.
Mom rolls her cobalt eyes, takes the Petco bag from the floor, and settles it on the kitchen counter, spilling out all the contents inside. She shows me Angie's vaccination reports and her food, along with a coral bed for her to sleep in. Then, she takes out two small bowls and a pink, leather collar encrusted with gems.
"Make sure to potty train her and buy training pads. Wouldn't want her peeing on your new furniture, okay?"
I nod in agreement, thinking, when in the world did I agree to raise a tiny creature?
Mom proceeds to show me the decorative pillows she got me at Pier 1 with throws, bed linens, and a few too many lamps. I remind her that this is Miami, not Pennsylvania. There's sunshine all year round, no need for so many lamps, but she insists that lamps are like earrings—you need one for every occasion.
"When does your plane leave?" I ask after everything has been settled and Angie is fast asleep on my lap.
"3:00 pm. The taxi should be here any minute now."
"Are you sure you don't want me to drive you to the airport? I really don't mind," I say, reluctant to the idea of being alone for the first time in my life.
"No, Genna. You've done too much driving these past couple of days."
Dad wanted to drive my car down here while Mom and I took a plane, but I convinced him to make it a family road trip so he wouldn't be alone. We drove twenty hours from Pennsylvania to Florida, stopping only for gas and food.
"Stay home, shower, and relax. We'll call you when the plane lands." Mom forces a smile. She's trying to be strong for both Dad and me, but I can tell this move is killing her alive.
The taxi driver lets us know he's here to drive my parents to the airport. They grab their bags and I walk with them outside to give them a final goodbye. The driver comes out and helps Dad put his bag in the trunk, talking about the airline and gate number they'll be departing from.
It's only when my mom turns to me and says, "Oh, no. None of that," that the tears begin to fall.
She comes close to me and gives a tight hug as if to rid me of the pain of abandonment I feel in my stomach.
"This is no crying matter. No, young lady. You're going to make a difference in those kids lives and you'll call me every week telling me all about it."
All my life insecurities come rushing in at once like water pouring down from a cumulonimbus cloud.
"Mom, what if the teachers hate me or even worst, the principal, and my own students. I'm not qualified to teach in such a prestigious school. I don't know if I'm ready to live by myself or capable of taking care of Angie. I don't even know how to cook. Oh, God." I cover my face with my hands as it hits me. "I'm twenty-two-years-old and I don't know how to cook."
"Enough!" my father shouts, the few hairs on his head move with the wind. He comes up to me and puts both hands on either side of my face and wipes the tears with his thumbs.
"You've been wanting to be a teacher ever since you were four. It's your passion. Your purpose in life is to enlighten every young mind with knowledge that will last them a lifetime." He looks me straight in the eye. "Don't you ever doubt yourself."
"Your father is right, Genevieve. As for the cooking part..." Mom giggles, putting a hand over her mouth. "Sorry, I've got nothing. You're a horrible cook, sweetie, but there's always takeout or frozen pizza."
I laugh. A gush of tears spray my father's face. I am a dreadful cook.
"Sandy, come on! We're trying to cheer her up for goodness sake. Don't listen to your mother. You make the best eggs."
"Hey!" She playfully hits him in the shoulder.
"You can take cooking classes, or call your mom for some recipes," he smiles and continues, "and when everything else fails, all you've got to do is get on a plane and come home."
A honk burst through the air and we all turn around to see the taxi driver tapping his wrist, motioning to his watch. And to think I thought the sun down south would lighten people's mood, this man needs to relax and give me time with my parents.
"We've got to go now," Mom says. "We'll see you on Thanksgiving."
They kiss me goodbye and head inside the yellow cab. I stand there, letting the briny breeze hit my face and collect my tears for the ocean.
I've lived with my parents my entire life and even though I'm a little scared to take this big step in my life, I've already taken it and there's no going back. There's only the future to look forward to. I just hope I've made the right decision.