Mother Jenny Y. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 7, 2010
When I look at my mom, I see a mother happily settled with a husband and a daughter. I see that though age has thickened her waistline and lined her face, she still carries herself with the youthful legs of a 20-year-old and lets her thick, black hair trail across her shoulders. When I look at her, although I see a woman in her late 40s, I can still see the girl she once was in rural China – a girl my age, but with so much more courage than I could ever hope to have.

My mom's story begins on a small farm in the Shandong Province of communist China. I close my eyes and suddenly I'm there, on the hard dirt, smelling the earthy musk of the air, feeling a warm sun behind my head, with nothing but fields for miles. And I see my mom. She swears I look almost like she did at my age. She's far away, but I can see that her skin, though slightly dirty from her work in the fields, is still much paler than mine; though her back is hunched from the yoke she is carrying, I see that her thin body moves athletically.

I follow her until she arrives at her house, which she shares with her parents and siblings. It is a mud hut, like the others in her village, but it seems especially small and run-down. I gingerly enter, noting the dirt floors and the grainy smell of cornmeal mush from the pot in the fire. It occurs to me that my mom is very poor.

She is on the floor, creating a book bag for her ragged textbooks. I watch her work with nimble ­fingers. Even now, her eyes hold the steely glint of determination that will later separate her from others. My heart sinks when I realize that I am the only one who understands her thirst for knowledge, the reason she walks three miles every day to get to school.

Her parents think that girls are better off working in the fields than studying, and now, as she reads her books, I hear her mother snap at her and throw her new book bag outside. Her bag is soiled now, crumpled in the mud and chicken waste, absolutely useless. As just an onlooker in a memory, I can do nothing, nothing but watch a familiar face fall and cry. I cover my ears.

Like a tape fast-forwarding, time progresses. Now I see my mom in her teens, waiting for admission results from a famous high school. She has studied hard for the test but with joy, since she feels no suffering in learning. Suddenly I spy her jumping, smiling and laughing, waving a paper in her hand while her family stands nearby, more shocked than happy. No one else from their village passed the test. It was my mom, only my mom, who made it to that high school. I wasn't surprised when I found myself leaping and cheering silently along with her.

She is my biggest fan now; I am her biggest fan here in the past. Later, at her new high school, I proudly watch as she continues to rise to the top. Many of her essays are published in newspapers, and students seek her advice when a test is approaching. She likes the attention, and I feel honored to be related to such an intelligent person.

As I walk with her through her journey, I finally come to the point I have been looking forward to most: her life in America. After passing several tests and finding a person to sponsor her, she becomes a college student majoring in mechanical engineering at UCLA. At first, I sense her loneliness and panic as she tries to adapt to her new surroundings, full of different smells, languages, and people. Never before has she eaten a pineapple, driven a car, or used a toilet with plumbing. Though her English is broken and she knows little about American culture, I can tell she is more than grateful to be here. Her dorm room is much cleaner than the mud shack back home. Here she has access to electricity and running water, and most importantly, better schools. At UCLA, she has so many opportunities to grow and advance in her field.

Her journey to America was for just one reason: education. Though having an education would better her life, I know she didn't do it for herself. My mom did not want her children to have the same life she did; she wanted them to have an easier life that would not require hard labor. I saw what my mom went through, and I'm filled with gratitude that she made the brave choice to move here. I am so very grateful.

I open my eyes, and I find myself sitting on a cushioned chair, my feet no longer touching dirt but resting on a hardwood floor. A laptop is in front of me, its fan running noisily. How long have I carelessly let it idle? I shut it down, reminding myself to type my essay later. After all, I know my story now. I can tell it by heart.

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

Join the Discussion

This article has 49 comments. Post your own now!

KnitsandPurls said...
Sept. 3, 2012 at 9:12 am
Your love for your mother really shines through. 5/5!
Bones96 said...
Dec. 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm
This is really good you are a very good writter and the story was inpsiring. You deffently should be proud and I can feel that you are.
Luminescent said...
Dec. 18, 2011 at 8:14 am

Excellent job! This is a great piece. Your writing style is really intresting. Keep up the good work.


irishlass317 said...
Nov. 26, 2011 at 4:14 pm
Wow, this is amazing. thank you for sharing your mom's inspiring story!!!
JuneTaz said...
Nov. 4, 2011 at 7:46 pm
Beauty all the way. You should feel truly blessed to have her as a mom. I give it five stars. Such an inspiring piece totally deserves to be heard across America! ;)
EricForman said...
Aug. 31, 2011 at 12:17 pm
This was a really inspiring story. I hope you follow in her footsteps.
silence-is-loud said...
Jan. 22, 2011 at 8:44 pm
this is wonderful! i hope you follow your mom's footsteps. She seems like a brilliant person.
1234Joey4321 said...
Jan. 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm
this is really good!
ellie315 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 9, 2010 at 11:05 pm
WOW! so good! this is really powerful; kuddos to your mom! if only there were more people like her (and YOU!) in the world! :) your an amazing writer - never stop!
bbygurl21 said...
Jul. 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm
i loved reading your work its amezing
BleedingRose said...
May 17, 2010 at 11:05 am

I'll admit, I'm a tad bit jealous of how well you write, and I know that must sound snobbish, but it's true and I don't mean it like that.  Whta I mean is that you're a very amazing writier,  your pieces show strength, beauty, and talent.  Never stop writing for anyone or anything, 5 stars!   ;)


Chaycee:) said...
Mar. 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm
so amazing! Great job :)
Thinker replied...
May 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm
Such admiriation defines a legendary hero, the greatest honor is to follow their foot steps.
i<3steven! said...
Feb. 26, 2010 at 4:23 pm
wow, me and my mom are like this too and i think that lots of people have the same probs w/ their moms, keep writing!
juicyfan6 said...
Feb. 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm
This is a great story! :)
run295 said...
Feb. 3, 2010 at 3:11 pm
read the book Shanghai Girls!
run295 said...
Feb. 3, 2010 at 3:10 pm
This is great!
kellyisgr8 said...
Jan. 30, 2010 at 11:59 am
I agree this is truly from theheart <3
OldAce said...
Jan. 29, 2010 at 8:21 pm
I think this is an amazing story. A story that is from your heart and tells of your mother to whom you must love for who she is. For her courage and determination. Your story is written very, very well. It's if I was there myself. That's how good stories are written. You show the character's reactions and actions rather than her appearance. Very well done. I like it a lot.
9CatsPerLife101 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 30, 2010 at 11:54 am
Hey thanks! Really appreciate it :)
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