A Worthy Gift This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     “An A- is the same as a C, Lulu,” Mom lectured. “You know why? Because it’s not an A!” I wanted to hurl my book and never speak to her again. She is the most intimidating, demanding woman I know. When my teacher said I was conscientious, hard-working, and a motivator, Mom replied, “No, Lulu needs improve. No work hard enough.” I remember biting my tongue and my cheeks burning apple red as I stared at the ground.

Mom and I are nothing alike. She grew up in China, while I have been here. She was deprived of a middle- and high-school education because of the Cultural Revolution, I am on a full scholarship at a boarding school. She grew up in a culture where success was stressed, I am in a culture where happiness is emphasized.

It is hard to find a balance when Mom tells me to work harder after I earn a 98 on a math test. I cannot even count how many times she has discouraged me. I was always envious when a friend’s parents would say “Amazing job! You got a B!” My mom would say to my 98%, “What happened to the other two percent?”

Unlike other teenagers, instead of screaming at her, I listen. I listen to her tell me that losing the two percent is disappointing. I listen to her tell me that I can do better. I listen to her tell me that top colleges do not accept people who only care to give 98%. And as angry as I am, it makes me stronger. And slowly, I find myself working harder and harder, not to please Mom, but to reach my own goals.

Mom has a hard side, but she also has a soft one. This is the reason I consider her my friend. She’s great at keeping secrets. We don’t tell Dad about the boys I like because then we would fear for their lives. She listened to me cry when my heart was broken. She stayed up with me until two a.m. when I was drowning in homework. She gave me advice when I fought with my best friend. She takes me shopping for gowns and tells me I’m beautiful, that any boy would be lucky to be my date. She is able to sense I am upset before I tell her.

Tomorrow is Mom’s birthday. For the third year in a row, I will be away at school, and my heart will cry because I can’t celebrate with her. I have no amazing gift for her. I will send her a card and a heartfelt letter, and she’ll cry because she misses me, too. She will not receive a grand gift from me, but I continue to receive one from her: Mom and Dad came to America to give their little girl the gift of a future. Every single day they give me a gift of motivation, love and support.

One day I will give Mom a gift. I want her to know that all her sacrifices were worthwhile. I want to reach my goals, achieve my dreams. When I succeed and have a bright future, that is when I will give Mom her gift: the gift of relief, happiness, and pride. So, tomorrow on Mom’s birthday, I will strive for improvement, strive for success. And on her next birthday, I want to be able to present to her the best gift: An achieved dream. Next year, I want to present to Mom an acceptance letter from Stanford University.

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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