Great Expectations

February 8, 2009
By
My mother is the first person I have ever truly despised. When Mitch Albom wrote in The Five People
You Meet in Heaven, 'All parents damage their children,' he must have known that in order to
injure someone who prefers to be an emotionally detached observer, the assailant has to be of
unusual importance to that person. My mother is. She is the first person I have ever truly loved,
too.

After she became widowed when I was one, my grandparents raised me while she held her accountant
job. I seldom saw her, but the times we spent were some of my most cherished. I recall when she
bicycled on the Beijing highway at nighttime with me to eat grilled lamb kabobs. The unsanitary
meat caused us to dash for the bathroom later, but I enjoyed the experience nevertheless.

My grandparents did not want me to know that my father was gone because they feared it would
stigmatize me in front of my classmates. When my mother remarried secretly, she introduced the man
who subsequently raised me as my father. After he left for America, she regularly
trekked to the consulate so that she could join him abroad. Eventually she attained her visa, and
she left, promising to send for me as soon as she became settled.

For several years I rarely heard from her except an occasional phone call. I was upset at first,
but the festering sore began closing in on itself as I began to forget her. It was so much simpler
to act as if she had never existed than to grieve for the lost. I accepted the belief that she was
unwilling to sacrifice for her child, and that I fared better without her toxicity. When I flew to
the U.S. to join my family at 9, my suspicion of her came abroad. We resumed our old relationship,
but the negativity lurked beneath; if she did not lavish my conception of motherly love on me, I
perceived it as selfishness.

The bitterness I kept clandestinely grew until I rebutted her after she repeatedly screeched at me
for failing my driver's test. Because I couldn't drive legally, she had to chauffeur me to and
from my activities. Asking her for a favor became increasingly unpleasant as I saw her frustration;
she demanded that I drop most of my activities, but I would not yield. She had marred me since I
found out that she would not be like the glorified mothers I admired from TV and from my friends'
families, and I refused to let her hinder me from a better future.

'If you could trade me for money, at what price would you do it?' I asked. My mother is
infamous for being miserly. She rarely buys anything not on clearance sale, and she hates to help
outsiders because she feels they are taking advantage of her. When she became increasing agitated
as I named $50, then $20, and then $10, I realized that I had been an incredible burden to her, and
that she was stuck between a rock and a hard place. She conceived me believing that she and my
biological father would share in the responsibilities of a newborn, but she inadvertently lost her
support.

My grandmother once told me a story about my mother. She was a raving beauty in her 20s in China,
and many qualified suitors pursued her. After my father's death, they still wooed her, but when
they discovered the child'me'they fled. My mother was only willing to remarry under one
nonnegotiable condition: my new father must treat me as he would his biological child. Wei Yu,
whose surname I now bear, was amongst the few that agreed.

When my parents argue, I feel an indelible guilt, that my existence may have caused her to forgo a
happier marriage. She made the sacrifice that would constrain her to a tiresome path, and now she
is weary. Approaching her late 40's, she was still tending to a teenager who was doubtful of and
under-appreciated her. In a way, she gave up on me like I did her. If nothing could diminish my
pessimism towards her, then she had no incentive to try.

My father used to assure me that my mother loves me in her own way, but she doesn't have the
capacity that others have in giving. Over time, I fathomed his analysis, and I stopped expecting
June Cleaver and expected my mother. Then, my vision clarified to the point at which I fully saw
her dedication to provide for her family, her efforts to relieve my father and me of extra housework
when we were swamped with assignments, and her unwavering belief in my future. Because I could
interpret her as she is, I came to love her. Fortunately, she reciprocated my attitude.

Looking back, I don't regret the acrid feelings. Actually, I am grateful for the isolation
because it helped me become self-sufficient. My grandparents entrusted me with my own set of keys
and with dispensing hot water for ramen when I was in third grade, and over time the trust has
evolved as people in my family acknowledged that I am not the type to shirk responsibility, whether
in personal relationships or in leadership positions. What I was deprived of when I was young I
want to lavish in my interactions with others. I want to be the giver.

'All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the
prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into
jagged little pieces, beyond repair.' Therefore, as Estella states in Great Expectations, 'I
have been bent and broken, but'I hope'into a better shape.'





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Rez-Gnahc said...
May 12, 2010 at 9:48 am
i enjoyed reading this. i thought the description was good and everything flowed
 
cbienaime said...
Dec. 31, 2009 at 1:40 pm
excellen!!!
 
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