i had a pretty busy weekend this past weekend. i took the day off friday to spend with my mom…actually, to really bond with her. my mom is a very conservative old-fashioned vietnamese woman that does not speak much of her life. this was the single opportunity i had to learn about her experiences and all she went through to get here, to learn about her history. my mother was an immigrant from vietnam. she escaped the communists regime on April 30, 1975. last friday was a commemorative ceremony for the 3,000 refugees that escaped on the US naval ship; the USS Midway. my mother, step-dad and i drove to san diego for the ceremony on this same ship. my mom whispered to me as i parked the car, “that’s what it looks like. i was always on the ship then dropped off. i’ve never seen the outside of the ship that helped save my life.”
i learned a lot about my mother that day. while others escaped on the ship with family members and friends, my mother traveled alone with only an extra pair of clothes (which someone ended up stealing from her as she slept) and no money. she left her family behind and followed the flowing crowd running towards this ship taking them to an unknown destination. my mom got on this ship alone. she didn’t know where the ship was headed. all she knew was she was safe. during those 18 days aboard ship, eating mostly rice and salt, she met my father. they instantly became a team. their destination: Guam. they were truly starting a new life, only this time together. both of my parents left the only place they knew as “home”, left their families and journeyed to a foreign place; unfamiliar with…anything. they worked for meager wages in Guam. making a combined $5 an hour, they saved and saved for 6 months to make a life for themselves and to create one for me in CA.
my mom told me something that friday that i will never forget. she said, “when people look at me, they see that i might have a tough life now. i don’t make as much as other people but i work very hard. this is not hard. then, that was hard. so now, when i see people that are less fortunate, i always do what i can to help them.”
i love my mom.
to this day, this woman works so hard & doesn’t make much, yet still pays it forward.
on the drive over to san diego, my conservative catholic vietnamese mother said something else that about floored me. we were discussing prop 8 and human rights, and she got really pissed. she was angry that some people, including her own daughter, were not seen as equal deserving human beings. she turned to me and said, “baby, i don’t care. if somebody loves you, is nice to you & cares for you, i love them back.”
after coming out to her at the age of 17, lecturing me that she doesn’t want me to go to hell and never speaking about the subject for the next 13 years – i honestly never thought i’d hear something like this from her.
i came out of this experience with a more sense of dignity and self. my mother did not work so hard and sacrifice so much for anyone to walk all over her daughter and for me to settle for less. she didn’t struggle to travel all this way for me to half-ass my life.
my mom has truly shown me i am capable of, and can do, anything.
i am my mother’s daughter. i can do anything and i will not settle for less.