My mother is the typical Asian mom. Growing up there were no hugs, kisses, or “I love you’s”. They just didn’t exist. They were never part of her world growing up in rural China. With only bare necessities to live, and little to resources in a tiny village, I’m guessing the culture and lifestyle didn’t leave much room for those things. So in turn, my upbringing was often void of emotional or physical affection. Even until this day, my mom expresses her compassion purely through actions.
At the end of my first week in kindergarten, I walked over to my mom in the kitchen and handed her a piece of paper. The yellow page was a notice listing all the supplies and requirements students in my class needed to have ready by the end of the week. I kept it hidden in my Care Bear folder with the intent of showing it her, but she was never home when I arrived home from school. Subconsciously, I think I neglected to show her to spare her from being upset about all the expenses for school. Every expense was a burden, and she always let us know it.
So instead, she complained bitterly about me not bringing the list to her sooner. I remember lying in bed that night, crying softly into my pillow so my mom wouldn’t hear me. No one was allowed to close their bedroom door, so I buried myself under my covers and soaked my pillow in muffled cries. I knew that just outside of the room were my disappointed mom, and a brand new backpack…empty. I envisioned myself walking into a classroom full of children, each one with fully stocked pencil boxes and desks, and mine being empty.
I tossed and turned for hours, but finally fell asleep staring out my bedroom window. I remember looking up at the night sky and saying to my then 5-year old self, “I wish I didn’t have to go to school ever again.”
7am the next morning my mom gently pulled the covers off from my curled up body. I sat up for a moment as my head spun from all the crying, and rubbed my swollen eyes to see clearly.
At the foot of my bed was my new red backpack. My mom leaned over and pulled it closer on my bed in front of me and unzipped the top. As I peeled away the front flap, all of my textbooks leaned forward, all perfectly covered with folded brown paper bags to protect the outside hard covers. Every last one marked with their subject title on the front with a Sharpie. Behind the books were a few crisp folders, slightly filled with wide-ruled lined paper. And in the front pocket, newly sharpened #2 pencils, safety scissors, Elmer’s glue, a ruler, and a coveted unopened box of Crayola crayons. I wrapped my hands around the box of crayons and pulled them up to my face and closed my eyes. Breathing deeply to smell the new crayons, I was overcome with how special my mom made me feel. After a few moments in bed to take it all in, I peered up at my mom and smiled…
She smiled back.
Back then my mom was a busy working mother of two, supporting a family and aging parents. A woman I have grown to respect and love even more now that I am a mother, regardless of her signs of affection.
She probably has no recollection of this day when I was just five years old. However, for me, it is one of my most treasured memories of my mom.