My friends are from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and have been married for over 25 years. They have two daughters. One daughter recently graduated as valedictorian from a major college with a B.A. in Environmental Science, and she is beginning her Masters in the same field. A P.h.D. degree in Political Science may beckon.
Her father is similarly educated.
The other daughter, like her father, is more politically-oriented, and is presently evaluating her options for a major.
Both were accepted into every college to which they applied, and have already published academic papers.
I met the first daughter moments after she was born. I entered the room while the soon-to-be-new mother was watching the “Spock’s Brain” episode of “Star Trek” (the original series) just prior to labor, and hours later another episode was airing on the TV in the background.
I reentered the room, tears and all. The new mom and dad were fellow geeks, and now there was another.
The following week we all (me, the new baby and her parents) went to see “Scream II” because, well, it had just opened.
The father is still as big a geek as I am, which in part explains our friendship.
To summarize, the baby was a week old and she not only was introduced to “Star Trek,” but she saw her first R-rated film.
She was starting out well.
Otherwise I didn’t think twice about it back then.
When the first daughter was still a toddler, I was single. Every Friday night, like clockwork, I would eat dinner at the new parents’ house.
I got a home cooked meal; I brought over a VHS or DVD.
Not a bad deal.
We watched, per our equivalent tastes,“The Exorcist,” “Dawn of the Dead,” and “A Clockwork Orange,” among others. I didn’t question the child-rearing until later, but the daughter was barely two years old at the time. She was already walking and beginning to talk … and she stayed in the living room watching — on and off — some fairly hardcore films along with us.
One evening, I noticed the father had a picture book on his coffee table. It was about art in ancient times, and some of the images were quite graphic. The daughter was perusing it. If memory serves, she was no older than four.
I said to my friend, in as sensitive a manner as possible, “I think your kid is a little too curious.”
My friend looked at me, quizzically. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“She’s looking at the nudes.”
“You never looked at National Geographic growing up?”
“What does that have to do with — ”
“If you’re worried about her seeing naked pictures, you don’t know me. There is no censorship in this house. We don’t believe in raising repressed kids.”
What crossed my mind was a mix of admiration and worry. When his wife, who was making dinner, turned and asked if everything was okay, upon the affirmative she said, “She does have a thing for those pictures.”
As the years went on, and the other daughter was born, I noticed a trend of complete openness when it came to child rearing. The father said both daughters have seen the parents nude, and reiterated that the human body was nothing to be ashamed of.
They said that to them, early on.
Questionable permissiveness, perhaps, and yet … both kids were consistently receiving school honors, never got into trouble, never did drugs of any kind … drank coffee and wine occasionally once they turned 18.
They didn’t care for the taste prior, but took after their parents later.
This was a favorite, and telling, conversation between me and the father …
“You’re so permissive,” I said.
“You’re not exactly prude either,” he said.
“I’m in my 30s, that’s the difference. You’d let them watch porn too?”
He became suddenly defensive. “We hate porn,” he said.
“Do you find it offensive?”
“Then why do you hate it?”
“There’s no passion in it.”
I’ve seen passionate porn films, but nonetheless. “What if your kids wanted to watch it?”
I remember my friend getting angry. “Look,” he said. “If I knew someone, anyone, guilty of human trafficking or child exploitation of any kind, I’d want them executed if that’s what you’re asking. Let the crows take their privates, for all I care. But if my girls wanted to watch a porno, then they watch a porno like I did. Like my wife did. I know my girls. They’ll hate it too.”
He was right. I heard years later by the time they reached 18, both were shown parts of a porn film by friends. And, they both asked to turn it off.
Weeks later we had a similar conversation about drugs.
“If they want to do drugs, then they do it in front of me,” the dad said. “And we’ll talk about it, just like we talk about racism, the death penalty, and other things.”
The kids never had the inclination to experiment at all.
And that was the nature of our relationship for the first two decades. These were my friends, and I found them fascinating. And me? I was a pain in the ass who kept asking questions.
European upbringings, I was constantly reminded, were quite distinct of those with “American morals.” My friends love America, and came here to begin a new life far away from some of the difficulties they faced growing up.
Argentina’s Dirty War from 1976–1983 saw over 30,000 die as a result of military violence.
The Dirty War ( Spanish: Guerra sucia) is the name used by the military junta or civic-military dictatorship of…
My friends made it to America, and brought their mothers with them.
I met the father first, at an independent media company. We hit it off instantly, and he invited me to dinner for the first time.
I was surprised that dinner started at 10:30PM, which took some getting used to moving forward. We all talked about America vs. European morality, even to the point of discussing nude sunbathing which here in the U.S. may get you arrested.
My parents and two brothers were all living in the east coast at the time. My own upbringing was fortunate, to say the least. My dad has since passed, but my family was supportive in all of my own crazy endeavors.
I was raised with unconditional love.
And then I met this group of “crazy Italians,” as they called themselves. I thought I had found a new family, here in Los Angeles.
In fact, I did.
One afternoon, perhaps 20 years ago, the father called me, sobbing.
He received a note that he and his family were going to be deported. He was an entrepreneur, and making excellent money with another media business of which he was the president. He — and they — were respectable, to say the least.
But they never received a green card, and hence have been working here illegally all along.
I drove over, and the family was in tears. They loved America with a passion borne of conflict, and could not bear to leave. America was home to them; they could not conceive of returning to Buenos Aires.
Ultimately I found a friend who was looking to hire a new CPA. My friend’s wife was an accountant; she was hired and they were able to stay in the country.
They became U.S. citizens in 2016.
I was always credited by them for my help in keeping the family in the country, a perspective of which the two girls also constantly remind me … which is why they call me “Uncle.”
Today, both daughters give regularly to charity, and work jobs (presently from quarantine) that pay more than most although they still attend school.
The older daughter is expected to marry soon to a Ph.D candidate from India.
Entrepreneurial moves are presently being made by both to create great work that just may, as intended, change the world for the better.
They are the most well-adjusted young women I know.
My immigrant friends. They care, and damn right they belong here.
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