Today, I was playing with my youngest while my mom chatted with a friend on the phone. I listened intently to the conversation. She shared to her friend that I got her a nice pair of gloves for Christmas because I had wrecked hers when I was younger after playing in the snow with them and then placing them on top of the heater. Her friend said something, and then my mom said “Yes, 琼 玉 (my Chinese name) has always been a well-behaved, good daughter.”

Oh the joy I felt in my heart when I heard her say that. A small lump in my throat and few tears appeared.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if my mom has felt disappointed in me or even unhappy that she is living with me. This is not something that I have approached her to talk about as it’s not something that we do, and to hear those words today really brought me a sense of relief.

All my mom has ever wanted is for her children to listen well and be good people. Her standards are quite simple. She does not ask for fancy things or anything for that matter. She has always been happy and proud with the people that my brother and I are. And all I ever wanted to do as a child and now as grown adult is to be able to repay my mom for all of the sacrifices that she’s made for us and to honor her in meaningful ways.

Growing up, our family had an unspoken understanding. We operated with the intent to care for one another and to help each other. Words were not central to our communication. It was actions. The act of taking out the trash or completing paperwork or driving to the store were the things my mom cared about. I don’t mind the doing but I’m a word person. Being told I am loved for who I am was something I unknowingly craved as a child and as evidenced today, still do as an adult.

When I was little and my mom would run into a friend on the streets of Chinatown, I would wait patiently as they would catch up over months or maybe even years of not seeing each other. I would lean into the conversation waiting for the person to say something like “I’ve heard your daughter is so smart” or “Your daughter is so well behaved to come out shopping with you” and then, I’d earnestly anticipate her response which would fall into the realm of “Yes, she does well at school” or “Yes, she comes out and helps me with the shopping every week.” While those may not be considered complimentary according to Western standards, they were enough for me. In her own old school Chinese way, my mom was sharing some of her highest praises.

While I will unlikely ever hear the exact words I want to hear, it helps my heart to know my mom was and is proud of me, and in a way, that is all that matters.

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I write everyday because it allows me to voice what is at the surface. Once that is out of my head, I can dig in another layer deeper. My daily writing practice has been my greatest exploration of self and humanity. Sign up here to receive these thought nuggets in your inbox on the daily.