© Kia Marie Lor
Kolkata, West Bengal, India (
Neora Valley in Himalayas mountain chain)
Niam, this world is a new world, a world I’ve never understood. You’ve tried your hardest to make me understand your world but I was too selfish and narcissistic to pay attention. Though sometimes your words went in one ear and out the other somehow your redundant stories about your life in
Laos and made its way into my permanent memory log. I hear your voice play like music in my mind nonstop; there’s no OFF button to a mother’s wise and priceless words. Everything in the mountains reminds me of you, Mom. From the rice fields, hut houses, cows, wet clothes hanging to dry on the clothes line – it is ridiculous how much I think of you. Thailand
The river that flows from the mountain is really fresh, clear and clean as you promised it would be. Living in the mountains is uplifting; no wonder you always complained the flat
landscape. The roads here have potholes and are not smooth like I-94, as you used to tell me. Your world is right here with me; I’m sitting under the sky you grew up under. The sun here definitely has more personality than the Minnesota sun. Minnesota
All my life I’ve only saw you as the Hmong woman under the sunlight of my sky (in
). You’ve supported me and my decisions (whether or not you agreed to it). You have never stopped me from fulfilling my dreams, even if my dream was to be homeless bum (you said as long as I can be successful bum that’s all right with you, but of course you know me better than that). You’ve given me all the freedom a human being can ask for. The greatest thing you’ve given me is an escape route away from danger, poverty and a dead end; you brought me to America . Being in America has its ups and downs but I am truly thankful to have you as mom. Despite the fact that you had to give up everything you’ve ever known – literally EVERYTHING – you still willingly and benevolently left your sky and came to America . America
And it is this decision that I keep forgetting to thank you for. For the past 18 years of my life I’ve only seen the unstable woman who cannot fend for herself. You’ve left all you’ve know to come to a land you knew nothing about; a land that had freezing cold winters and extremely hot summers, without monsoons, without fresh mountain rivers, a land that required you to pay rent every month, that required English to communicate, that required everyone to drive in order to get places. Mom, it never occurred to me that you were a professional fire-starter, banana tree chopper, firewood carrier, rice field cutter and hand-laundry-washer. If given a degree you would have received a PhD in all of these things. But the American system took away your talents and gifts. You left your bamboo hut to come to a four-walled concrete building. Naturally you would be unstable in
America; naturally you would lose that talented strong woman you were to the alien world of . Of course you would get into abusive relationships without knowing you were abused – all you could do was depend on your “husband” for help since we were too young to help you and since you didn’t know anything. Of course you’d be weak and powerless because you didn’t know, you just couldn’t help it. America
I can see it all clear now and I am so sorry, Mom. I am so sorry. Kuv thov txim. As I sit here crying alone to myself underneath these mountains writing this I feel like bullets keep shooting and hitting every single part of my body. I didn’t know any better. In fact, all these I blamed you for my flaws and the things I couldn’t do. I blamed you for the fact that I couldn’t shop at the malls because we were too poor, instead we shopped at the thrift stores. I blamed you for not having grand birthday parties for me, not being fashionable, not being able to bring my friends home, for always making me be my own translator at school conferences, for always making me play the “mom” role; I blamed you for being weak and dependable on men – I never dated because seeing your relationships terrified me; I blamed you for making me responsible for paying the bills… the list goes on and on. I blamed you for being disrespected from all our relatives – since you were divorced four times they shunned me and all our siblings along with you. But I take it all back. You never asked for any of this, Mom. You really did try your best to be a good mother. Even though you came nowhere close to your aim, you’ve always pushed me to concentrate on my aim.
All your life you’ve been waiting and hoping that your children will grow up and take care of you. 18 years (15 years in the
) and finally the day have come. I want to give you all you’ve lost because you’ve given up so much for us – I’ve stood on your shoulders and I’ve been able to see a world you’ve always dreamed of seeing. I wish you could see this world while standing next to me. It’s such a beautiful view Mom. But it’s ok because through my eyes I will see the world for the both of us. It is because of you that I am able to see all that I can see and it is because of you that I am who I am. U.S.
I forgive your mistakes and take back all the mean and nasty things I’ve said to you (about you not knowing how to be a “good mom”). As a mother I’m sure you’ve forgiven me more times than I deserve and I am such a bad human being to be so blind before. You are my hero, Mom, and I love you so much. I wish that I can someday say these words to you. But unfortunately the Hmong culture does not allow emotions to be explicitly exposed.