← Issue 9
My Mother’s Daughter
by Katie Jang
Inside the lavender walls of my parents’ bedroom was my favorite place to be in the whole world. I can imagine it clearly, though the memory is old enough to question. Thick, brown embroidered curtains concealed the room in darkness, softening the outlines of the roses printed on the bedsheet. My mom cuddled me as she often did, and the heat of her body, the soft fabric of her pajamas, and the distinctly comforting smell of my parents lulled me.
“What am I going to do when you grow up? I want you to be my baby forever.”
“I’m always going to be a baby!”
“No, you’re going to grow up and have your own babies!”
I giggled because it was ridiculous. Babies couldn’t have babies.
“I’ll be your baby forever.” For some reason, I remember imagining a baby trying to come out of the chute of a machine and getting stuck.
It’s ok. It’s just one test. History is my worst subject, and everyone in my class did bad, I comforted myself as I walked toward my mom with my failed test rolled in one hand. 56%. If I tried to hide it, 엄마 would find out and have even more to yell about. She was always yelling at me, especially for anything below an A.
The Japanese maple leaves spotting the concrete outside our garage blurred as I handed her the test, waiting with simultaneous dread and greed to get it over with. She spanked me with the test while yelling and somehow I ended up in my grandma’s room. 엄마 told me to never leave and then left me alone. I had expected much worse – it almost felt wrong.
While I cried and vowed to stay there until I died, partially for spite and partially for shame, I wondered how I could’ve ever thought my mom was a nice person.
CM Level 4
Sometimes my mom was happy and soft. She started a tradition of setting up the picnic table in our backyard with tin lanterns glowing from their star-shaped pores to enjoy Trader Joe’s pralines and Rooibos tea in the evening. The first time she did it I loved her and my family hugely, but the next time I wasn’t allowed to join because I hadn’t finished learning my piano piece. I hated her then, and myself.
I wrote my mom a letter. I told her I was sorry, sorry because I knew I had become a snappy, negative presence in the house. I had been yelling at her; every time she talked to me, I responded with anger.
I wrote that I loved her, even though I knew I didn’t act like it. I also said that I wished she wouldn’t talk to me only to criticize me, like the time she saw my stomach while I was trying to exercise and told me to start working out. She always noticed my flaws as if I hadn’t already noticed them, too.
I put this letter in front of my parents’ room before I went to sleep. In the morning, I can’t remember if she wrote me a letter back, or if she talked to me, but she apologized.
I showed up to school that same day with puffy eyes. She had said something insensitive again before I left, though I can’t recall what. I thought my letter hadn’t meant much to her, nor had her apology, and I cried in the car.
When my mom calls me now, she speaks with a sweet, soft voice and asks me about how I’m feeling or if I’ve made friends or if I’ve done anything fun. I miss her, the cute and radiant image of her now, joking around, dancing, and parading in her little golf outfits. And I respect her immensely, the Korean woman who immigrated to the U.S. as a 14-year-old with a complicated family and little English literacy.
I owe so much of myself to her. I love her and am proud to call her 엄마. I am cold and reserved when answering her calls. I don’t want to deal with her questions, and I need to study. But the thought of dampening her happy spirit and returning her care with coarseness weighs heavy behind my eyes, and I wonder if she ever felt that same weight.
Katie Jang is a freshman at La Sierra University. She is an English Literature major on the Pre-Medical track. Katie grew up with her lovely family in Santa Rosa and still considers it her home. This is her first publication.