Standing Tall This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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When people talk about their moms, they often ask me, “What’s your mom like?” Then I feel like I have a chunk of apple in my throat. I have lived with her for 18 years, yet I still don’t know the basics: what color she likes, how many stores she owns. I am who I am, however, because she is who she is.

When I was in first grade, my class went on a picnic with our mothers. “Mom, come here! Look!” my friends called to their moms to show them earthworms they found wiggling on the ground.

But I put some distance between me and my mom. I was ashamed of her. She seemed fat and fortuneless while other moms looked blooming and booming. She didn’t invest time in her looks as the other moms did.

“Come to Mama, So Yeon,” she said. Instead of running into her arms, I looked at her bleakly. She sat in the shade of a tree and observed the others laughing and running. I felt her watching me, but I averted my eyes. Soon, we took a class picture. Mothers and children held hands and stood together before the camera.

“Come here, So Yeon,” my mom said, stretching out her arm. I looked into her dark brown eyes and turned from her as if she was a stranger. I stood between my friends in the first row.

Later when my teacher posted the picture, I searched for my mom. After a few minutes, I spotted her. Only half of her face was showing because she was too short to be seen in the crowd. She stood on her tiptoes, but she was smiling. How could she be smiling during such a depressing trip? No one talked to her. That picnic was the first and last trip she ever went on with me.

A few months later, she started her own business in women’s apparel, and for the next six years, she barely slept four hours a night. I remember her focusing on a book while vacuuming the living room. I remember her yelling on the phone to get a dollar discount. I remember her staring at her first store before its opening night. Due to her arduous work, my family gained some wealth. We moved to a rich town. When I became a high school student, she owned the six most popular apparel stores in the city. Yet to me she still looked uncivilized.

Right after my sixteenth birthday, I left to study abroad. As I went through the boarding gate to catch my flight to Toronto, I turned to see her one more time.

“So Yeon! So Yeon! Oh, my little girl …” she alternately yelled and mumbled in the huge crowd. Several people glanced at her but her eyes only looked for her little girl. I saw her face above the crowd; she was standing on her toes again. She struggled to hide her tears with a smile, but that just made her look more mournful. Then the gate closed.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t ashamed of her this time; I was proud to be her daughter. How immature I had been to yell at her weary face every time I saw her. She wasn’t strong; she only pretended to be. Now, wherever I go, whatever I do, I stand on her tiptoes that lift me up.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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D's#1fan said...
Nov. 5, 2008 at 1:52 am
I really like this. I feel bad for her mom but I think that this really says something about many kids of the world today; we are ashamed of someone or something that embarresses us, but what we should really be ashamed of is being ashamed.
 
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