Going to university was expected not optional as was the selection of a major deemed acceptable; i.e. Business/Pre-Med/Pre-Law. Only rarely was another major allowed as long as you were going to be a teacher. These parents often worked shift and/or multiple jobs in order to support their families even if that meant leaving behind educations and high ranking professions from their native countries. Our parents struggled to understand what we meant when we said we just "wanted to have fun and chill out". To our parents, there was no chilling out. Life was about hard work, responsibility and ensuring financial security for your family. I and many of my friends struggled with the expectations of our parents and often felt suffocated by their hopes and dreams for us.
Although we did rebel with alcohol and boys our parents would never approve of, in the end there wasn't that much trouble for us to get into in those days. So, we all survived high school and the psychological scars of that time have faded (for the most part) . We all for the most part are functional, contributing members of society. Even the dreaded teen pregnancy which happened is now a 20 year old man in an ivy league college with all paths leading to medical school much to his grandparents everlasting glee when they tell me every time they see me at the grocery store.
Not many people on that street ever moved, many of my friend's parents still live there but my neighbours of 20 years did move and a family with two pre-teen boys moved in. Their mother confessed plans of finally fixing up the front garden as she showed me pictures of her luxury home in Lebanon which they left as "It had no opportunities for her sons.." and their father worked double shifts driving a taxi so that his wife could raise their sons even though he had been an engineer in his home country.
Since we lived in the land of small suburban lots, I would often see the family enjoying BBQ's and drinking coffee on their decks and would greet them with a smile and a wave before ducking back inside. Their boys loved to play basketball in their front yard and they spent hours out there dutifully stopping their game every time a car passed by. Once when I left my car lights on, they sheepishly knocked on my door to let me know and brought back the keys I had dropped in the snow. They were a happy, close family and I was glad as I left to get married that my mother had such nice neighbours.
After a few years, my mother left the street to move into a condo much better suited to a senior citizen who no longer wanted the responsibility of shoveling driveways and mowing lawns. She sold the house to a nice family & was pleased to leave her neighbours with a suitable replacement for her. A neighbour who would mow their lawn, shovel the sidewalk, and look out for each other.
I have to confess, I never much thought about these neighbours over the years as babies were born, houses were bought and sold, and careers advanced until one day I turned on the local news and caught a newsflash that stated that a home invasion had occurred on my former street and that a 17 year old boy had died and his mother injured. "It couldn't be" I thought as I remembered the shy young boy and his mother who had lived next to us. My phone and Facebook page immediately started buzzing as friends and ex-neighbours messaged me saying that the altercation had happened right next door to where we had lived.
I turned on the news again and now saw that front garden covered with police tape and news reporters talking about a home invasion on "this quiet middle class street". I couldn't help it, I had to drive back and see for myself. Well, I couldn't even get by and was waved away by police. The trees were larger and the houses smaller than I remembered but the feeling of home still remained in my bones as I drove the streets where I had grown up.
Once I got home and turned the news back on, the tone of the newscasters had changed from shock and outrage at a home invasion in the suburbs to hints and whispers of gang activity and vehement denials from friends and teachers. I learned that this young man had died steps from his front door after a group came to his house and told his mother "They just wanted to talk." He told his mother to stay inside and died just a few minutes later.
I can't imagine what this mother feels knowing that if they hadn't answered the door her son might have lived another day, or his brother and father who were at work knowing they weren't there to defend their son & brother. The news posted pictures of this boy wearing ball caps and tank tops with a smirk on his face that all teenage boys have as they stand on the brink of looking like a man but still very much a boy inside. In the end, the camera crews packed up, the police continue on the case but a conviction is looking much less likely. Everyone has moved on to the next story for now and only his family and friends are left to mourn him.
Some will say that it was poor judgement in picking his friends, others say that it was just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. To me, whether it was bad luck or bad decisions that caused 4 people to set out to kill another that night it still shows that no matter how well you think you are parenting, these things can happen anywhere.
As the mother of a son, aunt of nephews and friend to other mothers this terrifies me as to what awaits us as our boys grow up and out of range of our arms to catch before they fall.
I think of this mother often and hope that she can find peace and forgiveness in herself moving forward for the sake of her other son and husband.
RIP Shadi, thank you for reminding parents to talk to their children and really find out what is going on in their lives. I hope your friends use you not as a reason for revenge but rather a reason to succeed and ensure this doesn't happen to others.