Each milestone met with a push to the next step while I was hoping for just a congratulations, validation.
When I presented to you each accomplishment that I had worked hard to achieve- like carving out each tiny piece in stone- a second later we would be discussing the next step.
But these things I already know about her. My mother is an ambitious person. Her challenging me to reach higher comes from a fundamental assurance of my strength and ability. My mother is my cheerleader, but one that cheers with tough love. What used to frustrate me, I now anticipate. Her expectations become a friendly challenge for me, where would I be without her eagerness for my next step?
Maybe you can sense that my mother and I might not function in the comforting, in-sync wavelength that I’ve heard about from other girls. I don’t call her about boys, nor about drama. She didn’t teach me about dresses or lipstick. We don’t gush; in many ways we don’t even relate. There are probably many things we don’t know about each other outside of the black and white, the technical.
But in the new year of 2011, we unpackaged all the french door office windows of our new house together: each wood-lined glass pane taken from it’s shipping box, wiped off cleanly, and stacked. We sat on the hardwood floor, in a completely empty house that she had designed and executed construction of in a mere ten months. As I sat there with her, alone in that new and beautiful house, my younger fourteen year-old self knew that I was witnessing something rare and real- the fruition of her hard-earned dream. And that New Years has been the most memorable to date.
There have been those big occasions through our timeline. I would hear the sudden and big unfolding from her, details of the past, stories of who she was, as if I was ready to take this sudden uncovering of emotion. Through these recountings, I saw her innocence and vulnerability, I saw her growing up in boarding school in Shanghai, I saw her moving to America with my father and a small suitcase to face unknown challenges, and I saw her settling down yet still facing unexpected disputes. These stories I treasured like diamonds.
I saw that even as she achieved dreams, she still endured difficulty just the same. In those times, I stepped up to meet my mother, standing there to serve as her rock. I knew that even without her saying, I was her true friend, someone who could be relied on in times of need. My mother has me, and a voice inside my heart urged me to become stronger, stronger than I would ever imagine. We weren’t there for each other through every moment, but we were always there for each other when it really counted.
My mother has taught me by example that there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you put your heart and mind to it. My mother has taught me without words the rawness of pain and sacrifice, but the overarching love and justice that heals. Women are created to be strong and kind. Women are created to walk with their heads up, to forgive and grace the hardships we might be served.
And mom, these days I tell you I love you often. I like to think that the things I haven’t directly learned from you through words, I am learning in parallel to you as I grow. Our bond is not the typical. But our bond is interwoven into both of our histories, continuing to grow into a relationship that is both encouraging and profound.
Love you mom, happy birthday,