My parents did not even go to high school. My dad had to help raise his younger brother and sister because their mom was a single mother. So he started working when he was 12 years old. His mom died of meningitis at age 40, and at 17 years of age, he became his younger brother and sister's guardian.
My mom wanted to become a teacher, but her parents pulled her out of middle school at age 14 so she could start making a living as an apprentice dressmaker. Her parents were poor immigrants from Italy, they moved to Uruguay looking for better jobs and opportunities in what was then a very prosperous little country.
They found each other, fell in love, married, and decided that their kids would be whatever they wanted to be. Both my sister and I went to the university. I'm now a Professor at NYU.
What was it like to be raised by them? They were loving and affectionate, and extremely supportive. My father was the first feminist I ever met. He encouraged my interest in science by buying me books. My mother became a very well respected dressmaker and I have to say that she made the most beautiful women's clothes I have ever seen. She had rich clients and made a very good living. We ended up buying a home, all with the money she made. She was a tireless worker, and I have her "workaholic genes".
My dad got very sick before I was even born, he had ankylosing spondylitis (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseas…). This disease is very painful but I never heard him complain about it. We knew he was in pain from the expression in his face. He died when I was 15, of a brain tumor. He was a happy, cheerful man in spite of his diseases. Very affectionate. Extremely intelligent and an avid reader. He had no formal education, but was not ignorant, quite the opposite, he was the anti-ignorant, always looking for ways to learn more.
My parents were frugal but we never lacked anything. If there was something we wanted and they could not afford it, they would explain to us why we couldn't have it. We almost never ate out. But my maternal grandmother, who lived with us, was a fantastic cook and we felt that we ate better and healthier than at a restaurant. We did not travel anywhere, except once a year to a beach house we rented, not far from Montevideo, the city where I grew up. The biggest source of happiness was the family, and being together, enjoying a good meal, a movie every once in a while, and fun activities such as going to the stadium to watch a soccer game, going to the park to play or to the boardwalk to eat popcorn and drink "mate" (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/…). Family was considered sacred.
I had a happy childhood. I grew up convinced that I had the best family one could ever have.
I thank my mom and my dad for who I am. I could not have followed my passion to be a scientist without them both, and their outlook on life, their support. I would not have the family I have now if they had not taught me how to love, and that family and the happiness of your family are the most important things in the world.
My mom and my dad were one of a kind. I think they truly were extraordinary people, and I consider myself an extremely privileged person, to have been raised by them.