When was the last time you sat down with one of your parents and asked them about their childhood?
Like many young adults in this country, I am a first generation Canadian. My parents both left their native Turkey as lonely teenagers immediately after completing high school to pursue higher education and wider opportunities in Canada. But migration is nothing new to my family – each generation since the start of the 20th century has gone through major re-settlements. My family’s story spans from rural villages in Eastern Turkey, to the urban heart of Istanbul, to the freedoms we now enjoy in Canada.
I turned 26 this year. To some, it’s just another 365 days that have passed. It’s another reminder you’re closer to 30, or that your 10-year high school reunion is just around the corner. While these thoughts danced in my head on a sunny morning in June, this year symbolized something much more – a never ending gratitude I owe my parents, for giving me a future they never had.
When I was a little girl, cuddled up by mom, I asked her about the scars on her legs. They look like old burns; small, spherical, dried up blisters of damaged flesh. She rarely volunteered stories of her childhood in Cambodia, but if I asked a specific question she always answered without hesitation. When she was a little girl herself, barely 10 years old, she was taken from her family by the Khmer Rouge and put in a labour camp. Every day for three years she worked the rice fields without rest from sun-up to sundown. The scars on her legs are mostly from leeches. They would prey on her in the watery fields, crawling under her skin until she cut them out.