My Mother’s Daughter
I remember the Christmas of ‘98. My mother was weeping by the christmas tree. My sister was still a baby then and did not know what was happening. I was confused; shouldn’t Christmas be a happy time? That was the first time I realized that my family was imperfect.
I later found out that my mother’s reason for weeping was because my father was spending Christmas night with another woman, and many other nights with her as well. The image of my mother crying on that fateful night still makes me sad.I was born to a gangster father and an ill-fated but intelligent mother; it was romantic enough but traumatizing as well. My father was comparative to a big bee; he pollinated the flower and left the flower and two buds alone with only their thorns to defend themselves in a vast and dangerous world. My parents were divorced after my father showed abusive behaviors towards my mother. He would hit her and call her “ugly” and “fat”. He would borrow money from shady groups and put her name on their hit list of people they should go after in case he never returned the money.
When he did that, it was like he was signing my name on that list. It made me very sad. when I was very young, my father took away everything that my mother and I could have lived on (our money and our home) and decided not to be in my life in any fashion. He left us without any child support or any financial support. So, I was raised fatherless by my mom.I was five and waving good-bye to a man who was almost a distant reality behind a glass panel at the airport. I did not know where I was going.
And that was the last I saw of my father. I was crying then. Times were difficult after my mother and father seperated.There were times when we had to go to garage sales to get our clothes and Goodwill to get canned food. We transferred to and from numerous temporary homes whose rooms were filled with worried voices late at night; filled with conversation I could not yet understand. Dinner was often a little piece of bread that we got off food stamps. I would look at my mother and know that she suffered and sacrificed so much just so I could live.
The thought would fill me with guilt.I was too young to feel embarrassed by our situation, but looking back, I imagine how embarrassed my mother must have felt. Still, I believe it is better that we left my father. my mother would have gone through so much more needless suffering. Time away from him would distance us from the chaos allow us to grow, to accept the brokenness and distance ourselves from the chaos and violence. Without him, love between a broken family could blossom again. Despite how she was treated by my father, my mom always taught me to treat others with respect and kindness.
My mother, despite being beaten and abused, did not become callous but remained compassionate. She was always ready to give to those who were as unfortunate or even more unfortunate than us. When time and time again, I saw my mother (almost penniless) stop her car and roll down her window in the rain, just to give the homeless the very little she had, I chose to be a learner, a giver and a believer. Several years later, with her words echoing in mind, I traveled to deprived Ghana, Africa to attempt to be my mother’s daughter; to care for orphans and show them that somebody in the world loves them. I was scared and lonely, without my family and without comforts like running water. Still, I went beyond myself and way outside my comfort zone to reach out to children who feel traumatized as I did before and showed them somewhere in the world, somebody cares about them. I found out that they were being physically and emotionally abused and pleaded with the director of the volunteer program to take them to a real home.
I wanted them to have a home, something I’ve never I’ve had. I wanted to be like my mother, who, after enduring so many hardships because she had to support me, didn’t abandon me and showered me with love and warmth.Though there was no running water, internet, and food was scarce, I was repaid in full every early morning when the African school children greeted me the moment I walked into the school with smiles and excitement on their faces. “Yifu, yifu,” they would say. That was African for “white people.” I was happy and I felt so in touch with the world when I was able to teach these children simple math, English, and health information, including instruction regarding HIV. These were subjects that I was well acquainted with because the U.
S. mandates that all children attend school. These were subjects that only a couple of these underprivileged children knew at all because quality education in Africa is reserved for children whose families can afford it. While the experiences I had at the school for underprivileged kids made me painfully aware of how little these children had, the conditions at the orphanage I was staying at broke my heart. The woman who ran the orphanage was extremely abusive and starved the children, beat them with closed fists, and forced them into child labor. I had several children tell me this verbally and I knew they were being truthful by the thinness of their bodies. Some children were kept from going to school to tend to the shop this woman was profiting from.
Whenever I returned to the orphanage from school or play, the orphans would gather around me and follow me happily and I never knew why. Gradually I realized the reason why they were so happy whenever I was home was because this woman couldn’t beat them in front of me. For those two weeks until I left for home, I stayed by the children’s side at all times, and made it a point to record every single event in my journal. I would take them on walks and carry the littlest on my shoulders. I fed them my food during meal times. I would use my spending money to buy them the food they deserved but never received from their caretaker. I wanted them to know so badly that this Yifu from a distant land loved them.
And I think they knew that judging from the smiles on their faces.My experience in Africa opened my eyes. One, it opened my eyes to how lucky I am to live in the U.S. and have people who care about me; to have someone care for you and love you is truly a luxury that not all of us can say we have. Two, and more importantly, I realized that that there’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of help to be given. My dream is to be a psychologist to help people with my conditions.
College will help me get there.When I was young and immature, a kind woman taught me to treat others with respect and kindness. When I was hurt, a kind woman put a bandaid on my wound. When I was little and sick, a kind mother was there beside me to check my temperature and hold my hand. Now, it is my turn to be brave. It’s my turn to hold on to the hands of those in the dark and reassure them that they will again see the light of day. I am not the product of a chaotic and violent relationship; I am my mother’s daughter.