My mother came to America with my father right after high school. Neither of them knew English, nor the culture. One of the culture shocks, especially to my mother, was how they raise their children. In America, parents tell their children that they were proud as long as they tried their best. In Korean culture, due to the devastating effects of the Korean War, generations afterward had immense pressure to improve the society around them. Korea is on the road to hell: the pressure to succeed weighs down heavily on the youth.
Mom, when everyone called you crazy for letting me try out 12 different extracurriculars when I was younger—from ballet to piano to figure ice skating to swimming to volleyball to horseback riding to golf—thank you for giving me experiences and the opportunity to get to know myself.
I’ve always wanted to become a mother. When we were asked to write down our dream occupation in elementary school, I wrote Mom. I loved my mom. My mom loved me. We made each other happy. Who wouldn’t want that in the future? A job where you made someone feel so loved and felt loved back constantly?
Whenever I came home, my mother always had snacks. Strawberries and raspberries were always my favorite. Most of the time it was apples, peeled and cut into equally carved parts. Now, in college, I barely remember to eat a meal a day. I forget that I have to drink water too. When I do eat, it’s always junk food. Lots of candy and soda. I miss my mom.
Growing up, my father and I fought constantly. I still remember that time we were on our way to Church for Christmas in Arizona.
My father was in charge of getting me dressed for the carol concert. He didn’t know I had a fever of 105 degrees. My teacher told us to wear jeans and a white T-shirt, but my father did not listen—he thought I was lying. I was stuffed into a thick, woolen, pink dress that itched everywhere and heated me like a parka. I refused to leave the house and cried. Ten seconds before we even left the garage, I threw up. Tears, snot, hiccups, and throw up. Rage was only on my mind. Frustration from not being understood. And for the first time, the feeling of disappointment in a father who did not listen to me.
I still remember. During the concert, I glared down at my mother and father. Pure anger and rage. Thinking, how could you do this to me? How could you not listen to me? I was telling the truth. Aren’t you supposed to listen to me? I trust you, but why don’t you trust me? Do you see me like this up here? I am the only one in an ugly pink dress. Set on stage sick embarrassing myself in front of everyone. It is all your fault. I hate you.
Mom, I’m sorry Dad and I always fight. I’m sorry Dad blames you when I talk back to him or make mistakes. I’m sorry I didn’t understand.
My mother and father got married when they were 19. I thought I wanted the same, but I promised myself I would never marry anyone like my father.
My mother and father always argued. Mostly because of me. I still remember a time when I was in 2nd grade. My father and I were arguing about something. I, angry for his lack of compassion and empathy. Him, for feeling disrespected as a father and ego-challenged by me. My mother took my side. The fight became between her and my father, and we all started screaming. I was angry, blinded by rage. But then my mother started crying. I had never seen her cry. She ran to the bathroom and huddled in a corner. Dad looked surprised. I chased her to the bathroom; I wasn’t mad anymore. I was scared. Once she saw me, she recomposed herself. Rather than sadness, it was anger. She marched to the garage with car keys in her hands. I begged her not to go. My father tried to grab her. She got in the car and the garage door opened. I thought she wouldn’t leave, but she drove off.
We drove after her. We couldn’t find her, so we came home. I remember waiting in the living room for her to return. Terrified. We hurt her, and she reached her limit. But she loves me enough to pick me, right? To come back? Right?
When she came back, she was surprised at how worried we were. I don’t remember what happened afterward. I think we pretended everything was okay. We always do that. I think I said sorry. I hope I did.
Mom, I’m sorry you had to give up your job to stay with us. I’m sorry you had to stay with Dad because of us. I’m sorry I got mad at you for not fighting him back. I’m sorry I was too young to know. I’m sorry I called you selfish and a coward.
Mom started opening up to me about Dad when I entered high school. I think she started to realize that the only solution to mending my relationship with my father was when I started to understand him.
Mom knew I was just like her: the minute I fall in love, it is everything I think about, all I want out of life. Dangerous.
Mom, I’ll try harder to understand Dad. For you. For Richard. For us.
She told me of how she regretted marrying my father. How she wished she kept her job. How she wished she studied something else, like law. How she wanted to run away the night before her wedding, but she couldn’t.
She looked me in the eyes and promised me that if I ever wanted to run away, she would grab me, and we would go. She told me that if I ever want to leave, if I was ever mistreated, she will have a bed and warm food waiting for me, always.
My mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor when I was in tenth grade. She told me casually while on a car ride. She told me that she wanted to move to Korea, to be closer to my father. I was happy about the decision. I was excited to move away. I do not remember how I felt about the brain tumor at the time. Does that make me selfish? My memories are always so selfish.
I used to want success. Love. And then money. And then power. And then it was happiness. Today, I want nothing more than to show my mom the world. To give her the world. To love her. To make her happy.
Mom, I love you. Do you know that? I never show it. I am sorry for that. I hurt you in so many ways, but you still love me. Thank you for loving my broken, terrible me. Thank you for giving me a reason to stay long enough to realize this. Thank you for teaching me what love is. Thank you for loving me, no matter what. I’m sorry you never got the life you wanted. I’m sorry.
Anonymous was born in Georgia, lived in Arizona, raised in California, now residing in South Korea. They are studying Public Relations at SU and minoring in IST.