Bay Area teen writes touching tribute to mom

NOVATO, Calif. (KTVU) -- A San Marin High School sophomore read a school essay at an awards ceremony for the Rotary Club of Novato Sunrise. 

Everyone who attended the event, said there was "not a dry eye in the house."

Diana Alfaro's essay about her mom, is about life, humiliation and pride.

'Why They Do What They Do' 

The first house I ever cleaned with my mom was when I was six years old. She worked eight hours a day. At this age I was lucky to have her for a whole fifteen minutes after school, during her break hours; if the employer allowed her to do so. During this state, the time I had with my mom was limited, but we always made it up during the weekends. Its funny to think that our mother-daughter bonding began here, mostly by cleaning houses together, but it true. I felt privileged to be wiping windows, and although I was given the little jobs, I had my proudest moments with every one of them. 

That same year was the first year my school had a career day. Each student was obligated to draw a picture and present our dream job. I watched as each of my classmates got in front of the board and present one by one. I grew calmer by each presentation, I was determined I had the best in the class. When it was finally my turn I proudly withdrew my drawing, "When I grow up I want to clean houses like my mom." 

Instead of being presented with cheers, I was greeted with laughter. 

Towards the end of that day, we had a class full of lawyers, doctors, mechanics, and one struggling housekeeper. My friends and teachers were starting to look at me in a different way, and it was humiliating. It was a boy, who told me first," That's not a real job, that's just the help." It was my teacher who tried hard to calm the hysterics of the class. It was that day when I promised myself to never clean a house again. 

Even though this day had affected me deeply there was nothing my parents could do, they still had their jobs to continue. In reality, this event only affected me. It was this event that caused me to feel ashamed. It was my first taste of humiliation, and it was the first time, I ever felt this way towards my parents. I was embarrassed to be their child and to be around them. My mom wasn't just my mother anymore, she was also the help. 

My father was not just my dad; he was a store keeper too. I didn't understand why they were who they were. Why weren't they the aspiring surgeon or the prestigious lawyer? Why didn't choose better in their choice of job? As I grew older, these questions continuously came to me. The respect that I once had for my parents, was starting to dwindle. 

Every career related questions held for my parents where quickly replaced with a lie. I would quickly announce that my mother worked for a business, and my father for an aspiring company. I wouldn't let my friends meet my parents, unless they were wearing proper clothes. Every middle school open house for me was complete torture; I would have to be seen with them. I was deathly afraid my lies wouldn't be able to catch up with me. Until one day they didn't. It was my mom who asked me if she did something wrong. 

I didn't understand why she came up with this idea until I remembered her overhearing a talk I had with a counselor, telling her how successful my dad's company had been this year. It was that moment when we talked about why they did, what they did.

My parents aren't just parents, they are immigrants too. I was already aware of the difference we had in society, but I didn't know that they weren't given the same opportunities citizens were. My parent's didn't come to this country for themselves; they came for my brother and I. The day I understood this was the day the relationship I had with my parents recovered. The jobs they had to endure is just a sacrifice their willing to 

 make for us so we can be better than they are: the best we can be. I learned that sometimes we have to give up the most of ourselves for the people we love. For my parents it was their time with their family, their endurance with hard hours with little pay, and their dignity. The reason I'm able to open out about it now, is because I'm not embarrassed anymore, because there was nothing embarrassing in the first place. You shouldn't be labeled on what you do, but for who you are. A career isn't based on your skills in that field, but on why you did it, and who you did it for. Underneath that Safeway uniform was my dad. Underneath the sweats and behind the kitchen was my mom. It had been and always would be my parents, and no career day would ever change that again. And although I was not able to keep my head high that day in the classroom, I am proud to say I can do that today..