The Education of Angela Valenzuela: A Thanksgiving Memoir

Note: Angela Valenzuela is an education activist with values that we
respect. Here is a Thanksgiving note she recently shared with her list.
Posted by permission of the author
.–gm

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I want to take this opportunity to share with listserv subscribers
a little bit about me. This may be conveyed through a story that
appeared today in the San Angelo Standard Times about my recently
deceased mother, Helen Rios Valenzuela. (I’m from San Angelo, Texas).
My Mom passed away last week and here’s the link to today’s story that I think is well done:

There is only one error in the story. It says that my Mom is from
Phoenix, Arizona, when she’s actually from Superior, Arizona. However,
as a five year old, she did spend half a year alone in Phoenix in a
children’s hospital specifically for polio victims. She definitely beat
the odds. She wasn’t supposed to have ever walked and she did. She
wasn’t supposed to have had any children and she had three. And as a
female, Mexican American high school dropout who grew up during the Jim
Crow segregation era (de facto segregation, for Mexican Americans), she
was not supposed to have succeeded in life. In fact, my Mom graduated
from college with very high honors. There’s a part of the story about my Mom deciding to go to college
that I want to add. I was a senior in college when my Mom decided to go
(she had already taken and passed her GED). Incidentally, it was really
neat for me to cross paths with her daily during my senior year in
college. She was always surrounded by young college people who sought
her out. And I remember her bringing them home since our home was
already a social and intellectual center where we discussed and
questioned everything. And anyone who entered that space participated.

My Mom possessed a unique ability to accept, respect, and be open to
each person’s opinion and individuality. Since what always mattered
most to her was the relationship, you could tell her anything. This
certainly played an important role in my own development primarily
because it freed me to follow my dreams.

To continue, my Mom observed how by my junior year in college I was
questioning so much of what I had grown up with and how I was changing
as a consequence. I grew more distant as I felt that my parents could
no longer relate to me as they had previously. All of this saddened my
Mom as we had always had a close relationship. Several months after
enrolling in college, she asked me if I knew why she had decided to go
to college. I told her that I had an idea but wasn’t sure that I really
knew. My Mom then told me that she had always cherished our
relationship so much that she decided to go to college so that she
wouldn’t lose me.

I remember feeling amazed and profoundly flattered by her comment even as I attempted to grasp the strength of her love for me.

We’ll miss my Mom this Thanksgiving, especially since it was her
favorite holiday. We thought that she’d a least make it to
Thanksgiving…. In any case, I’m thankful to my Mother for her
unconditional love and passion for life.

I share all of this because my Mother’s life and death have been
very instructive to me, as well as to so many others. Perhaps this will
be instructive to you as well. Please know that I, too, am well—as is
my family.

Peace,

Angela Valenzuela

P.S. There is a photo, obituary, and additional comments by me about my Mom on my blog at:
http://texasedequity.blogspot.com/

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