The cruelest question I ever asked my mother, was if I was adopted. There’s nothing more hurtful than to be denied of your own flesh and blood.
To be fair, I have never felt any of us really look like her, but I should have recognized the resemblance immediately: we all inherited her nose, the thing smack dab in all our faces, right there in front of us, proof of our geneology.
My mother : strong, beautiful, passionate, daring, creative — part hummingbird, part stallion, full on mama wolf and ready to tear out any person to cross her cub’s path. To this day, she’s our biggest fan, and the kernel of our deepest selves, forever reminding us to never forget where we came from, that we are the sum of our experiences, to take care of ourselves and be happy. We live so far away, I know it is difficult as a mother to not worry, to not wonder if the pieces of her flesh are carrying on as they should in the world.
“You used to follow me around all the time,” she says to me wistfully, bemoaning the fact that I always want to find some sort of independence, to seek some sort of creative meaning. She, the same woman who taught me to harmonize and play guitar; who caught me talking too late on the phone to a boy on a school night; the same woman who helped me bind my handsewn books and who taught me never to take second chances for granted; the same woman who forced me to be aggressive and make international phone calls to summer advising to figure out how the hell I was going to deal with going to college. The same woman who asked my father, “do you even know your daughter?” when he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t go into engineering for my studies. The same woman who helped me translate The Good Daughter into proper Mandarin Chinese and convinced her friend to act alongside me so I could emulate all the Taiwanese soap operas we watched growing up. Who also asked me what I was doing with my life when I was too proud to ask for money and went to work in retail.
YOUR FATHER AND I DID NOT SACRIFICE SO MUCH TO LET YOU STUDY WHATEVER YOU WANT FOR YOU TO WORK RETAIL.
My mother. Lovely, complex, beautiful and so so passionate about being brave and not sitting back on the sidelines.
“Come on, Julie! Be assertive!” Her ever rallying cry to raise well-to-do children, who were not spoiled by privilege, and who knew the value of hard work. The woman who wants more than anything to give her children the world more than a hundred times over, and for all of us to be together in this scattered existence. So that her flesh can be whole again.
My mother, the woman of 36 transformations, former Cathay Pacific flight attendant, Los Angeles Bug Exterminator, who went to her class reunion and yelled at all her classmates for retiring.
SHAME ON YOU! I’M ONLY JUST GETTING STARTED.
She would drop everything at the drop of a hat if she knew we needed her by our side.