It’s hard not to talk about my mother without getting a little emotional.
I want to talk about her.
Today, November 15, is her birthday. Her 49th, to be exact. If you’ve never met my mother, maybe these vignettes will help to give you a better picture of the incredible woman that she is. In 49 short years, she’s travelled all over the world, moved to America with my dad, had five children, and is now going back to school while raising my two younger sisters who are still in high school.
One of the first memories of my mother was when I was about three years old. It was pouring rain outside of our small home in Japan. She had just put my two brothers to sleep, and had to go to the store to buy something she had run out of. I don’t quite remember what it was exactly… maybe diapers? And she asked me to babysit. Although I was honored to be given such an important duty, I was three years old and terrified of being home alone. I sat by the front door with my doodle board the entire time, and sighed a huge sigh of relief when I heard the door click, signalling my mother’s safe return.
When I was in elementary school, I attended a Japanese school on Saturdays. My mom had wanted me to grow up knowing how to speak Japanese, even after we had moved to the states. Of course, I hated it. All of my American friends got to wake up late and watch cartoons on Saturday mornings. I had to wake up earlier than I did most regular school days, and head to a sixth full day of school. In order to motivate me in applying myself a little bit more on those dreadful Saturdays, she had promised Sunday morning Starbucks dates where we would go over the Japanese homework that I had for the week. I cherished those Sunday mornings. I still remember one day when one of the baristas came around handing out cranberry coffee cake samples. But something that trumped coffee cake samples and hot chocolate from Starbucks, was my mother’s undivided attention. She was always so busy, and I would do anything to spend a few uninterrupted hours with her, even if it meant doing Japanese homework.
I hate it when my mom cries. If it’s even possible to feel a heart rip in two, it would be when I saw my mother crying. There were times when I found her sitting on her closet floor, hidden amongst rows of clothes on hangers with streams of quiet tears running down her face.
And my heart broke for her…
It’s not easy to live in a new country.
It’s not easy to not have money.
It’s not easy to have five children.
It’s not easy to have your son commit suicide.
It’s not easy to be a woman.
And it’s not easy to watch your mother suffer.
But the thing about the incredible women of this world is that they all suffer. And they all carry these immensely heavy weights on their shoulders day in and day out. And still, they wake up in the morning with a smile and an optimism that can move mountains, as if this weight didn’t affect them at all.
My junior year of highschool, I was accepted to compete in a regional piano competition in McKinney, Texas. My mom drove me all the way there for a long weekend of concerts, master classes, and competing. It was all about me that weekend. She helped me mentally prepare. She was my cheerleader. Not the loud, obnoxious kind, but the kind that whispers strong affirmations in your ear, assuring you that you are ‘good enough.’ She watched youtube videos on how to make the perfect bun so that my hair would look just right. And she bought me a new pair of nail clippers from the drugstore when I noticed last minute that my nails were too long. I still have those nail clippers.
I judge my mom too harshly most of the time. I think I am just like my dad in the sense that I have big dreams. I can be selfish and inconsiderate. Most of my days are spent planning my own future, career, and travels. My mother gave her entire life to raise us. Her days revolved around our after school activities and coordinating drop-offs and pick-ups. She cooked dinner almost every night, as we rarely ate out. Even the nights when all we had to eat were beans, rice, and cheese quesadillas, nobody could beat my mom’s cooking. She packed our lunches and did our laundry. She gave each and every one of her children her everything. She makes us all feel like we are the most important person in the world.
And I think I judge because I’m scared that I will never have the kindness, love, and patience that my mom had for us. Because I don’t understand how a single person could possibly sacrifice that much.
This past summer, I went to go visit an old friend of my mother’s in the Netherlands. Yvonne and my mom had exchanged handwritten letters back and forth throughout their college and adult lives. I had the chance to read through my mom’s thoughts from her 20’s and 30’s. I had the chance to get to know her through the eyes of a friend.
In one of the letters that my mom wrote to Yvonne as a new mother, she mentioned that motherhood is lonely. And that she felt so isolated from the world and from society.
But from where I’m standing, I see someone who has touched the lives of countless amounts of people, including her children. I see the strong community of good people that she built around her.
Women that know my mother will come up to me and tell me
how incredible of a person she is.
How strong she is.
How brave she is.
How beautiful she is.
And maybe one of these days,
I’ll be half the woman she is.