My mom

I love her and it’s a secret. I love her so much it kills me, and you bet I’d sooner die than tell her

by 2,300 words
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Photo supplied by the author

Photo supplied by the author

Mary H K Choi is editor-at-large for MTV Style and contributes to Wired, The New York Times and The Awl. She lives in New York.

My mom runs fast for a 65-year-old. She’s small — 5 ft even — and clocks in at just over 100 lbs. Her compact frame slays in the juniors section of American department stores. I see her sprinting toward me as I stand on the corner of Austin’s busiest intersection, on its busiest fortnight — the two weeks it plays host to South by Southwest, the annual multimedia conference. It’s just after 11pm and traffic is an absolute shitshow. My mom’s always been sporty but since she stopped dyeing her hair she looks her age. As she gets closer, I worry that her brittle avian skeleton is going to crumple atop the hood of a swerving SUV. Being picked up by my parents is an experience I thought I’d grown out of entirely. After all, I am 33 years old, live in New York and am here on business. But they live just an hour outside of town, and I pulled the trigger on hotels late enough that I’m staying with them. They’ve been stuck in traffic for two hours coming to get me.

I was on the phone with my dad, both of us barking over the imperious GPS voice — him in a road rage and me in a full-body eye-roll — when my mom bolted from the car to run ahead, figuring I’d be easier to peg on foot. I’m watching her beam and wave big, while running hard and yelling my full name in English, just like that: first name; last name. My parents both do this as though it’s for my benefit. Like, calling a child by their full government name is super-casual. Like, it’s not a dead giveaway as the weirdest, most ESL affectation in the world. I’m waiting with a 24-year-old colleague that I hired straight from college who idolises me and I’m worried that my mom will hurt herself and that people will see. The whole thing infuriates me. I refuse to eat the snacks that she’s tin-foiled from home.

I love my mother a not-normal amount. It’s all twisty because she tried to kill me when I was young. Just kidding. My mom is an excellent mom. She knows I am irascible, prickly and antisocial. She knows that most human interaction makes me tired and that I either scare people away with precise invectives or trot out the fakest, nicest skinjob of myself because it requires zero effort. She nails me on all of it, asking one billion follow-up questions until I get behind my eyeballs and engage. She forces me to call distant relatives, dialling the phone and pressing it into my cheek while my eyes get hot and watery. She pulls rank all the time and once judo-flipped me onto my back in a grocery store to remind me where things stood. She is my favorite and it makes me crazy. You can tell that she was popular in school, but I am a fundamentally more popular person. I care more and I’m great at rules. I’ve known it since the first grade.

If I were an actress and had to think of something sad to make me cry in a scene, I would think about this moment

When I was small I thought I was just cooler than my mom because of how foreign she is. She’s really foreign. You’d think it would kill her to get store-bought snacks, she’s that foreign. She grew up in a Korea filled with Koreans, married a Korean and then moved to Hong Kong in her mid-30s. I was 11 months and my brother was two years old. This was back when Hong Kong was a British Crown colony, which meant we were living in Asia with heaps of Australians and bronzed Europeans who dated Filipino women. It was all very James Clavell and linen shirts. In any case, I speak four languages and am a ruthless assimilation ninja. I will renounce all kin in the name of camouflage because everything is a contest and I am a disgusting sell-out. It’s the twin moon to my being popular in any context provided I put my mind to it. I’m sure there’s a field of corn withering somewhere in my soul that fuels this despicable talent, but everyone’s got to die of cancer some time, right?

My mother, on the other hand, speaks English poorly with a screwy, poncy Korean British accent, as if she learned it from watching one 1960s Merchant Ivory movie on repeat. She’s also ridiculously formal, deeply private and not a joiner. She transitions poorly. The move to Hong Kong with two wee kids and an absentee partner was rough. My father had elected to set up a shipping company. He was out of the country for eight months of the year, and sometime around my tenth birthday I discovered that he spoke conversational Russian for reasons that remain murky. All this is to say that he wasn’t around a lot.

When I was five, I compound-fractured my arm, pulverising my elbow. I was on a play date at my mom’s friend’s house and so naturally blamed my mother. I actually remember lying on the floor, howling accusations of neglect at her while she frantically summoned an ambulance that arrived with a squad car and a firetruck in tow. I was already having a tough time adjusting at school, and it looked like I would miss weeks of class. I found speaking in English disorienting because we spoke only Korean at home. I even preferred Cantonese to English since we’d attended a local Chinese school for a week while waiting on test scores to admit us into a British private school. Forced to wear a massive cast during my fifth month of British school, I began referring to myself in the third person — my English name — announcing, daily, that ‘Mary would not be going to school.’

School was awful. I had to leave during the middle of the day for physical therapy that involved swimming and returning to class with inexplicably wet hair. Lunch sucked. My mom would pack the dumbest garbage. She once smeared bits of raw garlic left over from making kimchi onto white sandwich bread, thinking that’s how the garlic bread advertised at Pizza Hut was born. I waited until she got off work that night and yelled at her with rank breath. I’d eaten most of the seemingly innocent square, elated that a sandwich had turned up at all in a lunch box that usually contained punishment food that sometimes had eyes. The stress of navigating school as a teeny-tiny uncomfortable person with an enormous gimp wing was taking a toll.

One lunch, I was dragging myself around the playground when I saw my mom standing by the fence, waving big and calling my name. I wanted so badly to ignore her. She was supposed to be at work and I didn’t have physical therapy that day so I was immediately suspicious. As confusing as her presence was, my curiosity did not outweigh my desire to be left alone. Especially by her. I began to back away so she started shouting loud enough to be heard over the playground din. I shuffled towards her with every intention to roundhouse-bludgeon her with my plastered arm. She held out a paper box. It was a McDonald’s happy meal: a cheeseburger one, which was my favorite. The offering was so out of character that I considered it a bribe. I wondered if my parents were getting a divorce since that was huge at my school at the time. I asked her what was going on. She mentioned something about how she wanted me to have a lunch that I liked.

I then did what any normal kid would do and yelled and yelled about how embarrassing it was to have her at school with me during lunch of all times. She presented me with a sack of cheeseburgers that I could give out to my friends. I refused the damp bag and screeched about how it was so cheap that she didn’t spring for bright red boxes with toys for them as well. I made her take the burgers back with her. If I were an actress and had to think of something sad to make me cry in a scene, I would think about this moment. This and the time I was 13 when I kicked my mom across a room and ran away for two days because she tried to ground me — for breaking curfew after my friend Jacinta stole money from her dying grandmother so we could rent out a nightclub and write the names of those blackballed on the sign outside. For the record: I don’t know why people have kids.

The summer before I turned 14, my mom, brother and I moved to Texas. We’d always known that some day before Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule, we’d join my mom’s side of the family in the US. While our Green Cards were being approved, my father bought a house in suburban San Antonio despite our extended family living 1,400 miles away in LA. After 13 years of sardine life at high-rise altitudes, he liked the idea of spreading out. The prospect of opening all our dresser drawers without hitting bed frames or doors sold him on Texas-sized everything. My father split his time between running a business in Asia and visiting us. When I arrived in Texas, it was mid-June and 104 degrees in the shade. I was fresh off a forced breakup with my Hong Kong boyfriend, a dishy 17-year-old rugby player. Between the heat and the heartbreak, the move was not my favorite. Trapped in the suburbs, I began to notice that the mother I’d largely ignored in Hong Kong was interesting — so long as she was talking about me.

My mom was the only one of us with a driver’s licence. Some time in mid-July, I started speaking to her again on car rides and we became friends. She told me stories about how when I was two I would dangle out of my parent’s window on the 18th floor to play in the tiled flower box. She told me about the time I wandered off with another family in a park, which I totally remember because they had empirically superior toys. She said that when I was four, I stole hundreds of dollars from her and bribed my bus driver to drop me off last and to make a pitstop at the deli so I could buy candy on my way home. I’d stuffed the change in my shallow pinafore pockets and when my mother frantically berated me for stealing the money and trying to get myself kidnapped, I told her I loved money more than I loved her. I found all of this fascinating.

These days I don’t love money how I used to. My mom though, I’m crazy about

This is going to sound absurd but my first year in Texas was the year that I first cared about being smart. I’d always prided myself on being popular. My older brother was the one with good grades and I was the one who dated burnouts from the year above him. There was something in the complete reboot of Texas, the comparative stillness of heavy skies and quiet nights that made me read a lot. I read a new book every other day and aced exams. Even as a sophomore, I easily slid in with the popular seniors. But by the time they graduated, I couldn’t be bothered to imprint on the next guard. I kept to myself and took a slew of Advanced Placement to college classes.

School was easy for me but those years were tough on my mom. In Hong Kong she’d had tons of friends. She was active at church and there was a sizable Korean community. In Texas she didn’t have anyone but me and my brother. Every morning when the bus would come to pick us up while it was still dark out, I could see her slight backlit frame outlined in our blinds as she watched us drive away. A senior on the bus once asked if my mom knew that we could all totally see her. I told that kid to go fuck himself and to quit looking at my mom. To this day, I still can’t watch her watch us leave.

It’s a blessing that life is riddled with diversions. I work a lot. I’ve never had the weeks between Christmas and New Year’s off, but these days I don’t love money how I used to. My mom though, I’m crazy about. I think about her all the time and can’t stand it. When she rings during a meal I get indigestion if I don’t call her back immediately. There’s a roiling shame spiral wherein I become resentful that she called at all and punish us both by prolonging the wait. I have no idea when my perception of my mother became the calculated crush of my life but it has. I don’t go home for birthdays or holidays, and on the occasions I do visit, I express my affection in strange ways. I wait for her to fall asleep and peer over her body and imagine what it’d be like if she died. I just stand there, hot silent tears coursing down my face. We’re not a demonstrative family, and such maudlin, psycho behavior is fair grounds for riotous derision. I love my mom and it’s a secret. I love her so much it kills me, and you bet I’d sooner die than tell her. I kinda want her to know though. Maybe someone could tell her for me. Someone who isn’t my dad. Because that would be weird.

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Comments

  • Jennifer Jun

    Mary, I really enjoyed reading this as a Korean-American woman in her late 20s, also crazy about her mom. I, too, get hot tears when I imagine her gone one day. But what would make me infinitely more sad is the thought that she would not get to hear from me directly, day in and day out, to the fullest extent that she deserves, how much I love and appreciate her. Our mothers are champions. I hope you and I can have the courage to express these feelings to our herculean mothers as much as possible in the time allowed to us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/priscilla.baek Priscilla Baek

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story, Mary. I've always wanted to write a story about my mother as well, as she is so dear to my heart but I just don't know what to do with her sometimes. She affects me in ways that she doesn't realize, and one word she says has so much weight, and it kills me sometimes because she just doesn't know. Your story made me realize how much I love my mother and all of her craziness. I try to tell her how much I love her these days because I do notice she's getting old, but yeah, the other ways of expression are more common and easier for me. Thanks again and maybe when I write my story about my mother, I can share it with you.

  • http://twitter.com/miksimum Jesse Miksic

    Great work. Really pinpoint-precise. I strongly identity with your McDonalds Rejection Experience... stored away in my punch cards, I have a similar memory with my own mom, a particular moment during my teenage years when I was an ungrateful ingrate, and it still gives me shame to think about it.

    Your mom sounds great, and I'm glad I got to read about it.

  • Reader McReaderson

    I lost my mother to cancer last year. So it is with some degree of authority that I recommend you tell your mother straight-up how much she means to you. Because you can go back and forth now about wanting to tell her, or figuring out HOW to tell her...but once she's gone, you'll never be able to tell her.

    • http://twitter.com/choitotheworld mary hk choi

      oh man. don't say the quiet part aloud. it burns. i'm so sorry to hear about your mom. i would be so broken. thanks for commenting. i'm an asshole.

      • http://www.facebook.com/fifi.gaia Fifi Gaia

        Don't doubt or blame yourself. You might not be able to say it right now. So start with a warm smile and some caring words. Say it often until it become natural.

      • Chasmosaur

        I lost my Mom 2 1/2 years ago to a brutally aggressive cancer. She was 65, and I had her for 13 months after her diagnosis.

        I agre with Reader McReaderson: TELL your mother. And get all of her secret recipes because you WILL miss them.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ayh123 Angela Hsu

        Wait a second, I thought you just told her by writing this article. She knows you wrote it, right? If she doesn't read English well, you should translate it into Korean :) Although it would be hard to capture the subtleties of the language in this piece unless you are really fluent in Korean... I was grinning the whole time I was reading this. It was funny and true. But you should definitely tell her. I hate tragedies. She probably knows anyway.

    • Ian Kaplan

      I lost my Mother in August, 2013. Like you, I was very close to her. I was able to say everything there was to say before the end. Although it ripped by heart out. This is the terrible crux of mortality. You find that there is never enough time that you could have. So enjoy the time now.

  • leado

    Oh man... that McDonald's story :( Unfortunately I think we all have one of those. Gonna go tell my mom I love her immediately.

  • Kathy Kwon

    thank you for so accurately putting into words what so many of us have thought of our moms. add to that kids coming over to our house and screaming WHAT IS THAT SMELL whenever the fridge opened (kimchee + dwenjang combo), getting tight toni home perms, getting mad at my caucasian friends because they don't understand korean words that i thought were english and getting so embarrassed. i've done the same things w/my mom that you have. i LOVED your post ... loved it!

  • Fabiana Choi

    I will tell your mom how much you love her for you!!! Loved your post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.horton.106 Dan Horton

    Nice piece of writing.

    • christine contillo

      I was always waiting to straighten out my relationship with my mother. In my 30's she still treated me like a child, and once told me I was stupid although I knew deep down she didn't mean it, she was just tired and overwhelmed. She would have done absolutely anything for me and I had to constantly prove that I didn't need or appreciate her help. Now she has dementia. She doesn't remember me but a few months ago said my name and then cried for an hour while I sat next to her and cried myself. You should tell her that you love her now while she can still hear it. You will regret it if you don't.

  • Christian Fazio

    Wow. What a fantastic article! It was eloquent, funny, and quite profound. I enjoy reading memoirs because a lot of the time they can reveal how similar humans can be, even though we can often think in terms of labels. I mean, once you really get to know someone those dividing walls (whether they be ethnic, religious, political, or what have you) crumble to reveal the beauty and complexity of an individual.

    During parts of the article, especially at the end, I was reminded of my dad. Although my dad and I had a tough relationship early on in my life (he was strict and demanding, pushed me to work even though I didn't want to, frowned on socializing too much) I have come to see him in a new light and recognize that he wanted the best for me.

    But, having two brothers and a hard-working dad who wasn't around much in my childhood, we aren't a hugging family. We aren't very vocal about our emotions toward each other--partly because we have a difficult time explaining or showing them. But I really love and look up to him. I guess it's partly the tough love I received from him that made my feelings so intense.

  • Sophia Ly

    I hear you, Mary! I too have this unfathomable crush on my mum and get giddy at times when I realize how freaking cool she is - way cooler than I'll ever be. Amazing story - very well written. Thanks for sharing.

    • Pudentiana

      Yes, I am so thankful that I read this and that she wrote this because my mom died very suddenly 4 years ago and she was such a great and strange lady. I miss her so much

  • http://about.me/neillk Neill Kramer

    I lost my Mom almost 9 years ago and my Dad almost 29 years ago. In addition I have a 15 year old and was a stay-at-home Dad. So I think I can respond both as a child & a Dad/Mom to your remarkable piece, but I'll limit it to the Dad/Mom side.

    As Reader McReaderson states, do your best to speak to your Mom directly. If you can't do that take a massage class and then massage your Mom's hands or shoulders silently. She'll feel the love.

    My son who used to say Daddy Daddy maybe 50-125 times a day now is embarrassed to be around me because I'm not cool enough. And I'm not, from a teenager point of view. Does it hurt? Of course, but also that's expected. Do I miss the early years with my son? All the time. But my hope is that he will become like you. Loving and thoughtful.

    All you may need is to find the best avenue for self-expression and to start, take baby steps. You don't need to gush it out.

    And thanks again for your very fine article.

  • http://twitter.com/qiumazenmind Cuitlatlaza

    Um. It was really weird reading this because I grew up in Texas and my Taiwanese mother actually did try to kill me a couple times when I was a kid. She was very drunk. I thought of running away many times. I am 24 now, but I did not and do not have the faintest attraction to my mom. I am a lesbian. But my mom isn't a woman in my eyes - she's just a crazy person in female form from Taiwan. She's like a little kid, that's how sophisticated her mind is. I never saw her as a parent. So it would be impossible to be attracted to her. Interesting that you had that experience, though. Thanks for sharing.

  • x

    this was a wonderful piece. only in recent years have i come to realize how much my mother has done for me, and it makes me sad to think about how unreasonable i was when i was growing up with her.

  • carolynmo

    Please tell her. Please. My mother died over a year ago, and I miss her every day. I'd give anything to be able to talk to her again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Gordon/100001167477361 Joe Gordon

    The bit about McDonald's brought back a memory nearly a quarter century old. I was working during the summer as a camp counselor at a day camp that was headquartered at a local theater. There were four other counselors and maybe 60 kids and they were divided up among us.

    The only kid I can recall was a blonde haired boy named Justin Curtis.

    I hated him.

    No, that';s not right.

    I LOATHED HIM.

    I would drive to the theater grinding my teeth hoping that he wouldn't be there that day, that he got sick from one of the other kids, and curse under my breath when I saw him.

    I actually tried to trade him for 3 of another counselors kids. I made sure he rubbed up against kids who WERE sick, couching and with snot slowing dripping out of their noses.

    No dice.

    He was ALWAYS there.

    And SO annoying.

    He wouldn't stand still, wouldn't pay attention and would pinch the hell out of the other kids, which of course I would get blamed for.

    It got to the point where when everyone else was inside painting or rehearsing whatever play/movie adaptation we were doing that week, I'd take him outside and have him run around the theater. Two times.

    Three times.

    Five times.

    TEN times.

    i even took him out when it was pouring down rain and the lightning and thunder were blasting off and it was semi bad craziness and made him run.

    And yeah, I stood under an umbrella.

    Then we noticed that there was a McDonald's bag that kept turning up day after day withe the other kids lunchboxes. Finally one of the other counselors got sick of seeing it and tossed it in the trash.

    Justin went berserk.

    I'd NEVER heard a kid scream so loud or for so long and still manage to run around a room tearing drawings off the wall, shoving kids all over the place, tossing chairs across the room.

    It was AWESOME, in a moderately terrifying kind of way.

    And the tears. Oh the tears. You'd have thought we'd taken his pet dog and made him slit its throat and then skin and cook it.

    That day NEVER ended. I mean of course it did, but it never ended. You know what I mean. So, I'm hanging in the room straightening up from Justin's rampage, when our supervisor comes in and tells me to come outside.

    Which is how I met Justin's grandparents, the two nicest, sweetest grandparents ever. No, nicer and sweeter then that. When I stuck my hand out they brushed that aside and it was semi-bear hug time. They both thanked me for what I was doing with Justin and how he didn't talk about anything else but me.

    Meanwhile I'm well aware that a "What the fuck are you babbling on and on about?" expression was crawling back and forth across my face.

    Grandpa took me aside while Grandma and my supervisor talked with Justin.

    Turned out Justin's parents were in the middle of the galaxies worst divorce battle and had taken to using Justin as a pawn to hold over each other. As in take Justin for the weekend and then leave him by himself for nearly 2 days type of pawn.

    Finally the grandparents came by one day and took Justin out to McDonald's and asked some questions and it all came out. And there were tears and crying and hugging and them telling Justin that it was okay, that they were going to make sure that NEVER happened to him again because he was going to stay and live with them.

    They got some extra food from the McDonald's and it was that bag, that greasy, crumpled up, oily McDonald's bag had been Justin's lifeboat for the past year.

    He slept with it. He tried to wash it, until his grandparents explained that wasn't a good idea.

    He had latched onto that bag and it was keeping him going.

    I fumbled around and asked about therapy and Grandpa said, he was going occasionally, but they were on a budget and they weren't having much luck with their insurance company.

    Which made me feel beyond guilty for what I'd put him through.

    The running.

    The running in the rain with the thunder and the lightening.

    So I started crying and apologizing for all of it.

    You have no idea how horrible I felt.

    No, worse then that.

    Grandpa hugged me and patted me on the back while I was crying and said, "It's okay, it's alright," in that magical way that ONLY grandparents have, and after I'd more or less stopped blubbing, laughed and said that he and Grandma had known about it and talked about how Justin LOVED it because he was the ONLY kid at camp who got to do it.

    Not that he didn't like painting or drawing or putting on plays or singing, but it was that ultimate in individual attention, that he wasn't getting from his parents, that these days would likely have gotten me arrested for child abuse, that he liked most of all.

    So we went back to where Grandma, Justin and my supervisor were and when one of the counselors brought the McDonald's bag out and gave it to Justin...he hugged it.

    I know it sounds creepy and oogy and gross and sicko, but it was NONE of those things.

    It was beautiful.

    • oldfriend

      Wow. This really moved me.

    • meloberry

      Wow this made me tear up. Thanks for sharing.

    • Copacetic in South Dakota

      Submit this somewhere! You have such a descriptive, evocative voice! Seriously! Thank you for your story. What a beautiful one. As a teacher of some amazing adolescents, I see this issue in a few of my students, but your story reminded me to be more attentive to each and every one of them. It makes for an emotionally exhausting day, but it's worth it. And Justin's oogy McDonald's bag showcased a much bigger M than the golden arches express: that of Memory (of confidence and trust in a comfort zone of love).

      • Joe Gordon

        Thank you very much. Thing is, I don't have the slightest idea where I would submit it or how to go about doing so. It's more of a 'slice of life' type thing than a short story or essay. I spent about 45 minutes trying to dredge up more details and memories but the only one that came to mind was that it was the summer that 2 Live Crew's song 'Banned In The USA" was a hit and causing a fair bit of controversy and one of the local radio stations played it every day at the same time in the morning and I'd listen to on my way to the theater.

        You're right about it being emotionally exhausting, but it can and did exhaust me physically.

    • Christel Ridao

      omigosh so touching! your story should be in chicken soup for the soul <3

    • Halloween_Jack

      Best story, full stop.

  • El Jefe

    Wow. Grow up, and stop being so horrible.

  • Carol Shih

    My family isn't a demonstrative one either, but as soon as I finished reading this, I emailed my mom, told her I loved her, and sent her a link to your piece.

    Thanks for writing so beautifully.

  • Oliver St.John-Mollusc

    and?...

  • http://twitter.com/dogunderwater KO

    I'm not Korean, but I am first gen, and parts of this hit so hard. I am also slowly becoming obsessed with my parents and I'm not sure there's a casual way to say it, but I think you should try. She knows, but she'll appreciate it. Thanks for this.

  • Katrina Calavera

    This is so lovely. One of my biggest guilty memories is the time that I
    asked my mom not to sit with me and my friends at a play held at my high
    school. She went outside and sat in her car for two hours. You perfectly captured the awkward juxtaposition of "god, I was
    such a dick"/"my mom is awesome for not smothering me at birth".

  • tom Timir

    I have a question.

    "I told that kid to go fuck himself and to quit looking at my mom." Was this typical of your behavior at the time, or was it an extraordinary act because you were very angry?

  • pakou

    this is one of the most beautiful pieces i've ever read. as a motherless child now raising two young girls of my own, i thank you wholeheartedly for this gift.

  • linda

    Well, I'm not from a first-generation transplanted family and my mother died twenty years ago but this essay is one of the best pieces of writing I've read in a long time. I still think about my mother every day and maybe it's her eccentricities as well as the fact that she taught me what love is that the writer has brought to mind. Also, how we become so like her in trying to be different from her.

  • Anonymous

    Wonderfully written. Makes me jealous of your cool mom. My parents were terrible and abusive and humorless, but they did share those quirks of cultural dissonance that make growing up Asian-American hilarious in retrospect.

  • http://twitter.com/dellaleffler Della Leffler

    I am a Korean-American woman... this article touched me. I had an absentee father who busted his rear to provide for us but didn't know either my mom or I on a personal level as a result. I had a mom isolated, depressed and alone in South Carolina where there weren't many Asians, let alone Koreans. I think back in horror at the many things that I said and did that I wish so much that I could take back - especially now that my mom is dying of cancer. We didn't have a great relationship. She was abusive and suicidal but I understand now that she had no way to express how sad and alone she felt and that when I pushed her away it hurt her even more. She's my mom. I love her. I hope she knows that.

  • cyclewrite

    I hope you do at least phone her/provide a card for Mother's Day. It's coming up. :)

    I have a difficult mother who has an explosive temper. But you know, even as a teenager (I'm the oldest of 6), I already knew how tough it was for her raising 6 of us while father was away working at a restaurant as a cook. So her yelling was justified around 15% of the time.

    Like your mother she was isolated because of her lack of English, etc.

    Yes, we can fantasize a mother that is more gentle, hugs us etc. But oh, wait she is the same mother who prepared healthy Chinese meals day after day, year after year for us. I tell people now, the legacy of that diet is embedded in my good health as an adult. I tell people my sewing skills (where I did enthusiastically sew 80% of my wardrobe) came from her as it did get passed to my 4 other sisters. She is the mother despite, yelling at us, stayed up for hrs. at night to fix our botched sewing jobs, etc.

    I can get really mad at her, but it's not worth it anymore. She brought me life, she gave birth to me. Tell her this: Thank you for bringing me into this world. She desperately wants to her this fro all the hard woark of raising you.

  • Vaughn Marlowe

    Wow. What a writer! You totally own the language. I hate you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1232077110 Aghnia Yuniarto Putri

    I also love my mom to the extent that, I think, I might immediately go crazy if she leaves me. I found, several years ago, that it is so hard to tell my mom how much I love her, how much she means to me, and I will do anything for her. Now, I just can hope that my mom knows my true feelings toward her even though I don't say it directly.

  • Kate Forristall

    Jesus if it wasn't for the fact that i follow Rembert Browne who I am old enough to be his mother on Twitter, I would not have found this or your site. This was amazing. A level of naked vulnerability and obviously deep passion that I'm wondering how you even managed (I'm an introvert too). And not to be obvious, but in response to the people who told you to call your mother (and speaking as a mom of five college and post-college kids) this piece is the daily phone call of the century. My guess is that she will read the hell out of it every single day. I know I would. Thanks.

  • http://academoiselle.wordpress.com/ a cad

    Jesus. I just burst into tears. I'm Chinese American and - fuck - I love my mom too!

  • j.

    what a great piece - i can so relate. i'm asian-american too, and come from a family where the only emotion we (historically) could comfortably express to each other was anger (generally stemming from dissatisfaction with each other). but yet, of course, despite my mom's screwed-up-ness, and the fact that she was very much a mean and neglectful mother (one example: i remember when we were leaving for college overhearing her tell ppl at a dinner party how psyched she was going to be to not have to deal w/ us anymore), i love my mother to bits.

    so, about our convos and communication: at some point in my late 20s i decided i'd had it with not being able to express a single positive emotion w/ her and damn it, i was going to change the way we communicated. (ok so yes, this did come about partially from having gone to therapy - but anyway.) and one thing out of the many things i was going to change was: we were going to communicate our love to each other. i was always jealous of white folks who would end convos/phone calls/etc with "i love you" (and also call each other things like "honey" and "sweetie pie" and "sugar" and all that - but hey - one step at a time.) so i decided we were going to do that.

    so at the end of phone convos, i started saying it to her. it felt really freakin' weird at first. i think i probably cried after hanging up those first few times - because at first, there was no response from her. and i felt so bizarre saying it too - what the hell was i doing? but, i knew it was better than our usual ending to convos. (ok, i gotta go to the bathroom now - that's my mom's fave way of ending a phone call.) so i had a conversation with her (multiple actually) where i explained to her how i really wanted her to say it back, to me. can you imagine!? i'm sure at first she was like, what the hell. i literally had to coach her through it the first few times. ("mom, can you please say the words, cos i just need to hear it..." and then she would say it, in the most awful, not-believeable monotone ever.)

    there were times when i gave up and just didn't say it. but then i would come back to it. to get myself to do it, i would remind myself - what if she died tomorrow, and i hadn't said it? that got me to say it. and then slowly, she started saying it back to me too, even, though still in this monotone that made it clear she was kinda just parroting it back. but that was fine - i needed to say it to her, and i continued doing that. i also really wanted her to say it first - but that was never going to happen. so it went.

    but then... then. it has now been a few years, and i can say that all of that has been a part of a real change in how we communicate. and you know what? nowadays, there are times when she actually says it of her own volition. and even more than that: i can actually hear some real emotion in it. plus, recently she's started texting me, and every single text, she signs with a "love u". which just freakin' kills me. kills me.

    so yeah, figure out a way to get yourself to tell your mother you love her. if you have to visualize her dying this very instant in some awful, gory way, in order to get yourself to do it - do it. you will not regret it, i promise you.

  • Cheryl Hoag

    That's a terrific article and although your Korean ancestry lends a special flavor to your relationship with your mother, I can totally relate as a non-Asian. I too love my mother a not normal amount--evidenced by how I still refer to her in the present tense even though she's been dead nearly five years. While she was dying, my daughter was growing into her teen-age hatred and disdain toward me. I was pretty much the filling in a hell sandwich. But it let me see something that might be useful to others here. My mom knew that I loved her a lot, what she really needed to hear from me on her death-bed and in the years leading up to it was that she had done a good job as a mother. She needed to hear that I would not have a preferred a different kind of mother. My own daughter can be as indifferent as she likes, I know that she loves me a not normal amount because I spent fifteen years seeing it in her eyes. I know that love will not go away. I need to hear that she thinks that I did a good job and that she's happy that she didn't have a different kind of mother. Please tell your moms this, they need to hear it. They know that you love them.

  • Christopher

    Love your writing. Big props from Houston, TX.

  • Zhou

    Thank you for this. It’s beautifully
    written. There're so many parts in this article that reminded me of my mom. She
    migrated to Singapore more than 20 years ago, and took care of my sister and I
    while trying to earn a living at the same time, all on her own. My dad was
    mostly absent, but his absence gradually became a looming presence that slowly
    crippled our tiny family of 3 vulnerable women into suicidal psychopaths in our
    own ways. My mom was also poor at transitioning; even after 2 decades of
    staying here, she still struggles with the English language. She pronounces
    'bouquet' as "bow-kuet". She still tries to learn new vocab once in a
    while now, and it’s adorable. When I was going through my rebellious adolescent
    phase I made sure everyday was hell for her. One time she tried to save $50 of
    delivery fee by pushing my new study desk home with a trolley stolen from the
    supermarket, and I felt so embarrassed by people staring at us on the street. I
    made a big fuss of out it. I asked her really hurtful questions. Why did you
    give birth to me when you know dad wasn't going to be by your side? Why did you
    bring me to this world to suffer? Why do other children get to enjoy certain
    luxuries, why are we so poor? And then on another day, I, too, pushed her
    across the room in a fit of anger, which then invited a hard slap onto my face.
    It must have been such difficult years for her to get through on her own, with
    no friends, family, or a partner to help her emotionally. Now that I'm grown up
    I feel incredibly indebted to her in ways I can't explain. I feel like I can
    never in my lifetime, with any amount of effort, repay her and show her my
    gratitude. Sometimes I even try to keep a distance from her because, as silly
    as it might sound, it hurts to love her, especially when I know that I’m going
    to lose her eventually.

    • http://about.me/neillk Neill Kramer

      Thanks for sharing. I wouldn't keep a distance from your Mom because even though she will not be around forever she's there for you - now. As someone who doesn't have parents that are still alive I encourage you to enjoy what you have.

  • meloberry

    I love this so much and it touches me on a personal level.

  • Pavel Gromnic

    A brilliant and loving comment on a mom. How I would have loved to feel so toward my mother. And the envy I feel at the affluence required to be in this woman' position is very, very keen. Live forever young and beautiful. by my command.

  • lanvens

    Chanel Jewelry.—A widow of a U.S. Army soldier killed inside a blast in Afghanistan has sued Fox Cable Networks and also the National Geographic Society on the documentary that showed her husband and family.

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    Annually after his death, his wife, Donnice Roberts, had a call from a service member in Germany who saw her husband inside the documentary. According to Louis Vuitton Outlet Store the lawsuit filed in Texas on Nov. 1, she did not know there was video footage related to her husband’s death knowning that the documentary existed.

    She's seeking at least $750,000 in Prada Online and desires a judge to prevent the film from airing again. She also wants the cable network to stop using images of military families without their permission.

    The documentary was produced and written by the National Geographic Society, and was promoted and Coach Purses written by Fox Networks Inc. and Fox Entertainment Group Inc., which owns area of the NatGeo network.

    Scott Grogin, a spokesman for Fox Networks Group, said the film never aired in the usa. Instead, it aired for the National Geographic International channel.

    Donnice Roberts said a photo of herself and her children which had been stored on her husband’s laptop was utilized in the documentary during scenes about his memorial service in Afghanistan. Grogin said the image of the family members was displayed at the memorial service and was not taken from any personal computer or family archives as claimed from the lawsuit.

    “The filmmakers got permission from your military to shoot the documentary in addition to being part and parcel of that, were granted permission to shoot the memorial service,” he explained.

    No one immediately answered the phone or email for National Geographic.

    Donnice Roberts said she suffered mental anguish, shock and sadness from learning about the documentary.

    “Moreover,Chanel Jewelry Mrs. Roberts has fears and concerns that her minor kids are depicted as the children of aPrada Online warrior in the war on terror, which can be fought by fanatic, radical folks who suffer from shown a propensity and desire to kill Americans, including as well as children,” the lawsuit said.

    The Roberts family has appeared in a “Today” show segment about gifts donated to the family, but Donnice Roberts said that she knew how a images would be used and gave permission as the family was proud of her husband’s service and sacrifice.

    She said military families possess a right to privacy.

    “Those are our personal items. If you chose to show a family group photo, that is your choice,” she said. “But having it done without your permission, I merely think it is immoral and an invasion of privacy.”

    Sgt. Roberts joined the Army after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and served two tours in Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan. He received the Louis Vuitton Online Store Bronze Star and the Purple Heart and was buried in Texas, where his family lives.

    The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division is situated in Fort Coach Purses.

  • cnklhd

    Why is this? As a child of first generation immigrants - so much of the time, it felt like we were dealing with not just a generation gap, but a culture gap. A gap that made me extra snarky, short tempered, and impatient. But damn, did my parents mean everything to me. Even now - all my mother needs to do is look a little askance, and I get panicked (a 45 year old man!!).

    I never told my father I loved him. I cannot even form the phrase in my head in my native Cantonese. But fuck, I loved that crazy asshole.

    When he was ill with terminal cancer - I went and spent a few months with him in Hong Kong. We spent our days bickering, driving around odd and unexpected parts of HK, with me in full eye rolling mode, and he losing patience with my incredulity over his ridiculous business plans (in his last few days, he had a scheme to by a heliport in Hainan Province, something he knew nothing about).

    I could tell he loved every second of my visit.

  • Marian

    Shockingly honest. At first I thought I hated you as I kept reading your post. I was being "judgy". But then I felt some semblence of relief that you even wrote this in the first place. I have foreign parents, and unfortunately both my mom and dad's interesting set of misgivings helped foster the dysfunctional aura that my family is today. No haters here :) Thank you for posting this. It was raw, and relatable.

  • Claudia Ng

    This is so incredibly good. Thank you for writing this.

  • Ami

    This is so beautifully written - i'm in tears!
    I'm with you on this - as a 2nd generation Korean-American, I struggle with this such uncomfortable and weird feeling of caged love for my parents.
    Thank you so much for this.

  • Astrid

    You're a dick. Tell your mom you love her. You are who you are becuase of her. Spoiled girl!

  • sam

    oh my gosh, mary! you were such a little shit!!!
    hahahahahahahaha!
    reading this really moved me. i cried and laughed and cried again.
    i, too, had a similar relationship with my mom. although i wasn't as badass. i once called her a bitch and every time i think about it now, i wished i could take it back. i never apologized tho. i don't know if it's due to shame... my teens and 20's were the hardest times. we just couldn't get along.

    i'm now closer to 40 and live in another continent and i just miss her sooooo damn much! we do talk on the phone and chat on facebook but it's never the same.

    i remember going back to new zealand to surprise her (and dad) for christmas last year and the whole time there, i just wanted to cling on to them. i didn't care what we did, i just wanted to be around them - like the annoying child!
    she will be here in a few hours, visiting for a month and I. JUST. CAN'T. WAIT!!!!!

    thank you for sharing your story. i really think you should tell your mom how much you love her though. or i could help you :)
    thank you again. please write more.
    sam xx

  • Harry_Voyager

    No, it's not a non-normal amount. It sounds like just the amount that it should be.

    I'm of the opinion that anyone who has had good and effective parents loves and reveres them. This isn't a cultural thing, so much as it is the dawning realization that our mothers crawled over hot coals for us, and we will never be able to pay her back, ever.

    On the practical aspects of being a nonverbal person, I've found that doing things works too. Look for common interests and hobbies, and get her advice or take on things.

  • Mp

    I really think you need to tell her before she dies. If you truly lover her so much it hurts then being honest may be one of the best decisions you've ever made. It would mean so much to her.
    Something I learned from my wife who is far more honest than I ever learned to be, at least before meeting her: the truth shall set you free. Truth in feelings, truth in stories you tell your friends and family. Life is too short and being honest is incredibly liberating.

  • Sorry

    I'm sorry but now I want to murder your mom. She reminds me too much of mine and I loathe her actions and presence with every fiber of my being. I have physical urges that make me shake and claw my face until it's bleeding in several places if she is too close for too long. Sorry, my mom broke me and now I want to murder every single parent who is like her in the least.

  • me

    You must have to be Asian to understand this. You seem shallow and self centered, and I feel a little sorry for your mom...wow.

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