By Yvonne Tran
When I was 7, I remember doing laundry with my mother in the garage. She decided to make me her counselor and divulged way to much for my 7 year-old mind to comprehend. Reasons why she's upset with my dad. Naming his flaws. Her unhappiness. Her young days dancing the night away. Her dreams. The what-ifs. Her life before me. Before two jobs, two kids, two dogs, a house, and a husband to support.
At the time, I didn't fully understand the depth of her words, I just knew she was unhappy and her life was as hard as it was back home, in Viet Nam. My mom has worked hard her whole life to support her family, herself, and now her kids. She worked so many jobs growing up that I refused to leave my godparent's house when she came to pick me up. She was unfamilar. Unknown. Missing in parental action.
My mother never gained the skills necessary to move past low-wage work in the electronics/tech industry. Although she was immediately placed into required "skills building" classes for recent immigrants after coming to the U.S., she was laid off again and again when the tech bubble burst in Silicon Valley. She had no other "marketable" skills and could not find work for almost 2 years.
|I'm the incredibly happy Birthday girl|
on the right.
I make myself red with anger thinking about how hard my mom has worked in the 30 some years she's been in this country, never taking a "real" vacation, never failing to provide, never resting. She raised two daughters who were able to complete a college education. My mother has done nothing but support her family at the cost of her health. I am angry thinking about how this country has ignored people like my mom. Saw her as inferior because of her inability to grasp the English language. Saw her as dispensable with her "low wage skills." Saw her as a resource drain when she depended on welfare to keep my family afloat. Her citizenship meant nothing next to her perpetual foreignness.
I want to honor her work, her love, and her consistent ability to take care of us despite whatever state she's in. My mom is my life, my love, the inspiration that drives me to do social justice work. Her pain drives mine and her injustices are mine to own as well.
I wanted to share a poem that I wrote several years ago in the heart of the darkness when my mother was very ill. It's titled "Butterflies" because my mom once told me she wished to come back as one in her next life. I asked her why and she got poetic on me. She told me she wanted to exist in a moment of transformation, fly into beauty, and die with quick grace.
for my mother.
How can words capture butterflies?
Born out of soft ugliness
Transformed into soaring grace
Existence in a handful of moments.
My mind use to beat my heart into tears when I thought of your nonexistence
Laundry time heart pouring
Dreams cycled in and cycled out
Damp with overflowing frustrations
Words connecting hopes onto lines of reality
Your happiness put out under the sun to dry
Fading colors and shriveling hearts
Hearts that become raisins
Dark, wrinkled, and ambiguously sweet
Your recipes captured my tongue's imagination
Filling my tummy with warmth and undeniable love
I use to resent your lack of affection
Until I realized you poured all of your love,
your sense of self
into this bowl
Powered by these chopsticks
With every bite you hope I will know the pungent depth of your love.
I hope to never capture your grace
I want you to soar into the sun
stared back into the sky
Hope to clouds
Hoping you will soar again.