The Midnight Flower: A Short Memoir of My Mother and I

My mother told me once, amid a teary-eyed yelling match, that she had always imagined that she and I would be best friends: mother and daughter, an inseparable pair. It’s funny that despite her raising me throughout my life, I somehow turned out to be like my father. We reside on opposite ends of the personality spectrum; my mother is beautifully feminine, graceful like the moon, and deeply “type-A.” With a bubbly personality, she loves floral and animal prints, large crystal earrings, and Chinese fan dancing. I am laissez-faire, in both the way I dress and manage things, to an extent. A weight-lifter, clumsy dancer, and a “this will do” attitude define my image as one my mother doesn’t fully understand. My childhood memories are littered with arguments over not wanting to wear the floral dresses my mother picked or refusing to sit with better posture, though I really regret this one now. My younger self was very irritated by this treatment—I didn’t want these clothes and I didn’t want to sit with better posture. Looking back, I understand my mother’s hurt: “I bought you all these gifts because I love you, but you always rejected them.”

Growing up was complicated; a trait that my mother and I both aggressively emulate is being very sensitive. Although the two of us are both first generation immigrants, I grew up here in the United States, so the English language is not something I wrestle with. My mother and I follow the Principle of Least Effort: we speak in whatever language the words come out of first. For my mother, this is Chinese. For me, this is English. Imagine two Venn diagrams, with my mother’s Chinese as one full circle and my English as the other full circle. The overlapping area is the language we understand each other. Realistically, this overlapping area is quite large, but relative to an entire circle, it is not 100% of the area. Silly arguments would escalate into tense matches in which we struggled to find common ground in both philosophical belief and language.

Among many of our differences, our deepest lay in our history. Growing up under communist China and then raising a daughter in the modern United States was an arduous feat. During my teenage years, the cracks separating me and my mother turned into a deep chasm. Not understanding her conservative, family-oriented values, I rejected more than just the things she bought me. I didn’t understand why she accepted the wage gap, believed that it was a woman’s duty to have children, and condemned illegal immigrants like they hopped the border just to spite the United States. My young, liberal feminist instincts screamed “traitor” as I listened to my mother talk about the necessity of motherhood, religion, and how people needed to stop being so “sensitive.” I only saw the negative space which her blatantly wrong opinions occupied and not the matters that had shaped her opinions. It wasn’t until my late teenagehood that my mother finally told me the chaotic story of our family applying and immigrating to the United States, which, despite common belief, is very, very difficult. She told me how she always wanted to have another child but could not due to her health and China’s one-child rule, and how her and my father left their comfortable lives in China to come to the United States, unfamiliar with the language and land, and with only $2,000 to our name (half was spent on buying a used car) to work difficult jobs without help. All of this was done for the sake of their young daughter so that she would not have the same bitter hardships growing up like her parents, who, despite it all, have become wildly successful in many definitions.

Despite many of our differences, my mother and I have rediscovered the most basic connection between us—the one held between mother and daughter. It’s defined by a mutual understanding of differences; we’re different humans, and that’s okay. Even though she recently sent me an article about a black conservative who believes racism is a term coined by Democrats to control minorities, I trust her. I can only imagine how radical my own beliefs sound to her, yet she trusts me. She respects the person that I have grown into, and although we still have our disagreements, they are closer to lively banter than arguments. I am proud of her for her fan dancing achievements, all her hard work, and extracurriculars. Her happiness is my happiness. I feel that finally, in my early adulthood, our relationship is coming to a quiet bloom. Already, the sun has set, to a perfect time for a midnight blossom whose roots grow deep into the soil of family. Yes, absolutely, I can see that I am my mother’s daughter.

 

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