My mother holds her life in her hands as if it was expired Play-Doh. It had become dry and hard; the challenges of starting a new life in America and raising a teenage daughter wore down its original vibrant color. She had once aspired to mold it into fascinating things. She once told me she wanted to be a flight attendant, traveling the world with a single suitcase and a silk scarf tied around her neck. Instead she was an obedient daughter and married my father to begin a family (that, and she did not meet the height requirement for flight attendants). Eventually, my mother left her shapeless Play-Doh in the corner of the kitchen counter. She continued to encourage me to be my best, so that I could have the opportunities she never even imagined. But for her, the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to run on only two AA batteries and was getting dimmer as its juices ran out.
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My mother, who held my hand when I took my first steps, was now waving to me as I ran forward to achieve my dreams. I toiled away at schoolwork and smashed tennis balls as hard as I could on the court. I lent a hand in community work at the local theatre and in tutoring. I was hugged in a circle of close friends who shared our happiness and aspirations. And through all this, my mother would continue to wave to me as I ran away farther towards my goals, encouraging me while her own life lay stagnant.
A stereotypical busy student, I sat eating instant ramen noodles one day while studying for my approaching quiz on the American political culture. I looked away from my textbook for a minute and caught a few words on the cover of my ramen bowl—something that is common knowledge to most people and therefore usually ignored. I promptly stopped what I was doing and looked around me. The clutter of textbooks and loose paper that drowned my field of vision and the calendar tacked onto the wall in front of me made me realize that I was going to college soon. For everything that my mother had done for me, from dropping her jaw in ecstasy whenever I conquered a major exam to holding me tightly whenever I didn’t, I never really paid her back. So, before I was to continue developing myself as a person and embarking for college to chase after my future, I had to push my mother’s life forward the way she saved mine. First, I needed to run to the convenience store down the street that sold AA batteries in packs of eight. Then, I needed to grab the forgotten, dried up Play-Doh out of the corner of the kitchen counter and press it into my mother’s palm, all the while pointing out the big block letters on my ramen bowl: “JUST ADD WATER.”