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In 1989, Xiao and A Jun arrived in LaGuardia Airport. They carried four suitcases filled with nothing more than a few sets of clothes and Chinese snacks. Xiao and A Jun had recently married and wanted the first years of their new life together in America. Although the housing prices and loan rates were at an all time low during this time in America, they could only afford a small apartment in the Chinese ghettos. Xiao and A Jun both wanted children, but decided to wait until they had stable jobs and a decent apartment.
After two years, three apartments, and countless jobs, Xiao and A Jun had settled. Xiao worked in a textile factory and A Jun worked as a chef in a small Chinese restaurant. They moved into a one bedroom, co-op apartment in Brooklyn; the apartment was small, but it was cheap and clean. On February 26, 1993, Xiao gave birth to a baby boy. The newfound parents had trouble naming the newborn since the only American names they knew were of politicians and criminals reported on the Chinese news. The nurse suggested “Daniel” because “Daniel” was a very common name that year. The name wasn’t special and it didn’t have any profound meaning that related to the parents, but it fit in to American society like they hoped their son would.
My parents sent me to China for the first few years of my life, but I quickly adapted to American culture when I returned. I was a very rowdy, so my parents were hesitant to have another child. When I was nine, my mother asked me if I wanted a sibling, I quickly responded and said, “no.” I hated sharing. My first memory was even in a toy store and yearning to have all the toys to myself. However, being an only child did have its downside, high expectations.
Whenever I disrespected my parents or misbehaved in school, my mother would tell me how everything she and my father work for is for me. Nevertheless, I was ungrateful and did not take her pleas seriously. Then in class one day, we had a discussion about what matters the most to us. I wrote down “friends”. The discussion began and someone said his parents’ happiness. As he discussed, I thought about my parents. I stared at the floor and my stomach clenched up. For the rest of the day, I thought of how I underappreciated my parents and how ungrateful I always am. On the train ride home, I tryied to think of a way to reconcile with my parents. I got home at 5:00PM and was ready for bed at 12:00AM, but I couldn’t sleep. My father was home, but I wanted to talk to my mother. She takes the night shift and I never waited for her before, so I just laid on my bed, waiting. After about an hour, I realized since I wasn’t going to sleep anyway, I might as well play video games. My mother heard video game noises from my room at 3:00AM, so she walked in and asked why I was still awake. She had puffy, dark circles under her eyes and her hair was really messy; I never seen her so tired before.
I told my mother that I just couldn’t sleep. She offered to cook me something, but I quickly refused in the my politest voice.
I shyly asked, “How was your day?”
She quickly responded and said, “It’s the same old routine. How was your day?”
I ignored her question and asked, “Are you happy?”
She replied, “Why wouldn’t I be?”
I didn’t know how to answer the question. I just said, “I’m a bad person.”
She smiled and said, “At least you’re smart. You’re my son, so you can’t be that bad.”
I said, “Was I a bad kid?”
She took a deep breathe and started talking about my life from the beginning, the very beginning. My mother talked and I listened for hours. She talked about how she was in labor for 12 hours more than the doctor suspected and how she works overtime almost every night and how my father is a chef and a part-time waiter. After my mother started talking about college, I stopped her and told her I was tired. She said okay, but before she left the room she asked if I wanted breakfast tomorrow morning. I fell asleep before I could respond.
I woke up and I felt great. It might have been the lack of sleep, but I like to believe that it’s because of the conversation I had with my mother. I was already late, but I saw that my mother had made me an egg sandwich and pancakes. I ate all the pancakes and half the egg sandwich. As I rushed out the apartment, I realized that I had forgotten to bring my keys, my cell phone, and my Ipod. However, there was no time, so I sprinted towards the train station. Usually there would be dozens of students waiting on the platform for the train, but this time it was only me and men carrying briefcases.
There were a lot of empty seats on the train, so I sat down and stared out the window. I started to daydream about being a famous lawyer in the future and making lots of money. Then, I imagined an older version of my parents sitting alone in a small apartment, but I couldn’t see their faces. I realized that I don’t know what my parents want, I never asked.
I had a very forgetful day at school. Nothing significant happened, so I went home early. My mother leaves for work at 4:00PM, so I rushed to take the early train home. When I got home, she was eating lunch and asked if I wanted some. I shook my head and simultaneously asked, “What do you want?” My mother looked astonished when she heard the question. For a few moments, she looked like she was thinking. Then, she says, “I want you to be happy and have many children. I want you to have lots of money and a big house.” I repeated the question, “What do YOU want?” She looked at her watch and said, “I want to sleep. Okay, I have to go to work. Be safe. Bye.” Later that night, I asked my dad the same question. He responded the same way as my mother did, except he smirked and said he also wanted a few sports cars. Before I fell asleep, I thought deeply about my parents’ replies. After several minutes of staring into my ceiling, I had an epiphany, well more of a realization. Be happy.
To be happy doesn’t mean to just pass through life with a smile. My definition of happiness is fulfillment and the happiness of my loved ones. My parents put all their effort and hope into me to become someone. They dedicated decades of their lives to me because they believed in me. I am a hardworking person and I will make sure my parents are proud. I don’t know what college I will get into, but I know that I will give every effort to be happy.