A short story by Mina Wong
My name’s Tiffany from the Georgetown area in Ontario. Thanks for letting me share a few moments from my childhood, family, and recent times that make up my life of almost twenty-one years.
I spent my first few years in Halton Region’s foster care while my real parents, still teenagers, were supported by child welfare workers to reunite with me, once they became adults and could take care of me. Foster parents Rose and Mike Simons instilled a lot of resilience in me. Although eager to adopt, they knew my biological parents had expressively wanted me back.
When my real parents came, I felt transported to a different world. One day, around a table at a government office, I heard “junior kindergarten for Tiffany” from all the adults there. After signing a lot of papers, a couple took me home to an apartment with my own room. I came to know them as my parents, Melanie Jacob and Joshua Manning, both nineteen years old.
I missed Rose and Mike and my carefree, pre-school days. I disliked morning kindergarten because Mom always fussed over breakfast when I was still sleepy. I also felt irritable when Dad worked long hours from early morning till late evening.
At school with twenty other children my size, the teacher was like a mom. But she couldn’t just play with me. She’d read and count numbers with us before letting everyone play outside. I cried a lot but settled down, especially at the end of the second Friday when our teacher, Mrs. Hislop said, “On Monday, we’ll have a little party for Tiffany’s birthday.”
I started to like school after that day. To my parents’ pride, I excelled, and in time, attended a high school strong in STEM*. By then, my brother Robin was almost in middle school. Five years younger, he was my responsibility each day until our parents finished work late afternoon.
Our home life was happy with bittersweet moments. Our parents didn’t have post-secondary skills to compete for well-paying jobs. Instead, they settled for junior positions to provide for us. They made sacrifices and taught us how to stretch a dollar. As a family, we’ve always shopped carefully and lived within our means.
Mom and Dad are a bit teary-eyed as I am finishing college, followed by working as an architectural technician. Knowing they didn’t have a high income, I managed with student loans and summer jobs. Now that Robin’s in high school and starting college soon, I want to support his education as much as possible.
My ordinary life taught me important values about family, happiness, perseverance, and success. I give my parents credit for their commitment to keep us all together, and for always teaching us honesty and optimism.
Without siblings, my parents were lonely, latchkey children raised by single mothers who worked extra-long hours. When they had me, both were criticized for making an unforgivable, out-of-wedlock mistake. But I now understand that even at the tender age of fifteen, they must have loved each other very much and that they wanted me.
Mom and Dad also postponed college to work and provide for me. While I was in foster care, they lived at home, finished high school, found jobs, saved money, and checked off all the requirements for having me back with them.
While foster parents Rose and Mike Simons (who have retired to Elliot Lake) gave me hope, trust, love, and generosity early in life, my real parents have shown how much they want Robin and me, through their devotion to family in good times and bad. Now that I’m an adult, I want to help Mom and Dad live more comfortably after overcoming so many challenges. If they want to pick up from where they left off, local post-secondary schools offer wonderful support to adult learners across personal growth, academic success, and professional development.
Although Dad now supervises a warehouse after many years as a receiver, courses in wholesale management could earn him a raise. Likewise, after twelve years in clerical positions, Mom could enjoy better work opportunities by studying accounting or data management.
As for me, I look forward to what lies ahead. I’ll build my life with further studies, a long and full career in architecture, marriage, and children. I also want to spend more time with my grandmothers who are now semi-retired. When I was born, Grandma Susie Jacob was an ER nurse, and Grandma Dorothy Manning was a social service worker. Although well-educated and resourceful, they felt deeply estranged from Melanie and Joshua for having a baby out of season. Already working and parenting full-time, neither grandmother felt she could also look after me. In the end, they agreed to voluntary foster care until my parents could reunite with me. Since then, both grandmothers have generously reached out to us, a gesture that my parents reciprocate, with a strong sense of family that means a lot to all of us.
Looking at my life, I also thank my teachers who always taught me the importance of inclusion and empathy, and who set examples of high achievement. As we say, the rest is history, and as historical as my ordinary life in Halton Region!
*STEM = science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.