Karel and Her Mother

More than anything, I want my mother to know just how much I think about her, how much I wonder what her emotional experience of her thirty-four years in the US has been like, and how much I ache when I think of how much she’s sacrificed for me.



Tell us about one of your earliest memories of your mother. (妳對母親最早的記憶是甚麼?)

My mother had a song for all of our morning and evening routines. When getting us out of bed, she would sweep into the room, yank open the blinds, and sing “起床了,起床了!” — or she would blast Chinese easy listening on the stereo so that it was impossible to stay asleep. My favorite song, though, was at night while she washed our faces with little terry washcloths:

洗洗臉
洗洗臉
天天洗洗臉!
乖乖的詹雅婷 (or my brothers’ names)
天天洗洗臉!

It was such a joyous song that I almost didn’t mind that she scrubbed my face so hard it probably removed the top layer of skin. Oh, Mom.

Tell us about the ways that your mother makes you proud. (妳母親/女兒讓你感到驕傲的是甚麼?)

When I was twenty-five, I moved from the east coast, which had always been my home base, to Portland, Oregon with my boyfriend at the time. It was difficult to find roots in a new city, a new state, a new coast, to say the least, and I encountered many curve balls that made me wish I could retreat back to the comforts of New York and New Jersey.

When I think about my mother, newly engaged to my father and moving to the US at age twenty-three, my mind is blown at how brave she must have been to take that leap, and then how steadfast to weather the newness of the country, of Western culture, and of starting a family countless miles away from the only other family she’d known. At least in my twenty-something naivete I was surrounded by a larger culture that I was comfortable navigating. I’m incredibly proud of my mother for choosing a bicultural adulthood and intently raising children who were not completely swept away by Western culture. In that sense, she gifted us with our own biculturalism, which we carry indelibly through our own adulthood.

As time has gone on, how has your relationship with your mother changed? (隨著年歲的增長,妳們母女關係有怎麼樣的變化?)

My mother and I used to fight like crazy, probably from the time I was about five until twenty-five. I’m twenty-nine now and I would say that in the past six or seven years, my focus has gradually shifted from trying to get her to understand me, to trying to better understand her. I’ve consciously been trying to find more empathy for her experience as a Taiwanese mother raising three American children.

My brothers and I have tested her strength and limits countless times, especially as we’ve become adults and made increasingly independent decisions that don’t seem to fit within her cultural worldview of what Taiwanese children do. And yet, through her disappointments and her struggle to understand what drives us, she loves us with a fierceness that is unchanging. I used to doubt her love for me, especially when I was a young child, because she didn’t say “I love you” and she didn’t cuddle me the way my White American friends’ moms did. Now I recognize that she loves in the way she knows — and what’s changed is how I perceive and receive it.

What is one thing that you would like your mother to know? (有那件事是妳希望讓妳的母親/女兒知道的?)

More than anything, I want my mother to know just how much I think about her, how much I wonder what her emotional experience of her thirty-four years in the US has been like, and how much I ache when I think of how much she’s sacrificed for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>