The Story I Never Knew This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 16, 2012
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My mom: The most beautiful women, honest, loving, caring, and the person who’s always there for me. The one, who understands me most, goes through what I go through every day of my life not missing one day. I feel like I’m in my mother’s position already. She’s my hero, best friend, and my very first love one.

My name is Xee (See) Yang. I was born in a “Hmong house” made with bamboo sticks and dirt as the floor on June 16, 1977 in Laos. I’m her daughter and we now live in Sacramento. I was around 6 months old when the Vietnam War happened. My dad was a soldier helping the Hmong escape, while my mom took me from getting killed by the soldiers on her back in a basket with food in it. While that happened, my mom, grandma, and older brother stayed in the forest to hide. I started crying, so the people who ran with my mom told her to make me take some opium so I can keep quiet and not cry, if not then we couldn’t go on with them; so my mom agreed and made me take a little bit of it. Running for days now, we finally reached the Mekong River. All of the people with my mom and I swam across the river, but I didn’t know cause of the opium still kept me “dreaming”. The Hmong people finally reached to Thailand, my mom started crying because I didn’t wake up, so we met a Thai lady and she asked mom “Why are you crying”?

“I gave her opium and she won’t wake up no more”, said mom.

“Give her a lemon juice for her to drink, it helps”, replied Thai lady.

My mom gave it a try… after half a day I woke up from the opium and cried. My mom cried of happiness, she thanked the Thai lady so much. We planned to stay in Thailand “Ban Vinai Refugee Camp” forever, but years later 1988 my mom passed away. At the age of 11, I had to earn money for my grandma, brother, and I. My brother Pae couldn’t work for the family, because he was sick and couldn’t do hard work after the surgery. My working job was to carry 2 full buckets of water for 2 baht (6 cents in US), but I need to fill up the well so I can support my family even more. I also carried a ton of woods on my back with a wood holder for 5 baht each time I drop off the woods to different families if they needed wood, but every day I had different jobs. The one I liked most was to do Paj Ntaub “sew clothes with designs on it”, it was fun but hard to sell to people since it cost a lot. Food was so expensive to buy, especially meat and clothes. Once every year, I earn enough money to buy a skirt, shirt, shoe, and an umbrella. Thinking about it, I rather let people pay me to do their jobs so they can pay me instead, but still getting paid was too little even? Sometimes some cousins will give me a pair of clothes that they don’t even want to wear no more, since I had no parents. There was no such thing as getting an “easy” job living in Thailand. Everything was just heavy work; if you don’t work you have to go up in the far mountains and forest to hunt for animals and plants to feed the family. That was even harder work, because you have to go up every day until night time since the mountains are far away from the villages.

One day my brother Pae got married, and decided take us to the United States, because he saw how hard I had to work for the family and how poor we was.

He said to me, “You have worked so hard. We’re so poor; do you want to come to the United States?”

“I don’t know. Mom had died already, why would we leave her alone?” I said to my brother.

“It doesn’t matter. We don’t deserve to suffer like this. We’re coming to the U.S. no matter what” Pae replied.

We left Ban Vinai in 1990, and then we moved to Phana for a year then we’ll come to the U.S. The only ones who were in Thailand in my family were my dad and my step mom. Brother Pae, my sister-in-law, grandma, and I were the only ones who left. It took around 3 days for us to arrive in America; my sister-in-law told us that her cousins were going to come pick us up at the airport in Fresno. First time in my life, I saw the escalator and we had to go up it. Everyone left me there since they all went up the escalator, I was scared of it because I thought that it’s going to eat my leg up. I stood there pretty long until the police told me to not be scared and took me. My family lived with my sister-in-law’s cousin for about a month until they found an apartment with 2 bedrooms and a bathroom. After a month or so, my cousin took me to register for school. I was an 8th grader, who rode the city bus every day at 7’o clock in the morning, because Pae didn’t know how to drive yet. Every day after school at 2pm, I’ll take the bus again and get home around 3pm so I can take care of my grandma. I struggled during in school so much since I couldn’t speak English, especially communicating with people who are not your race. Almost a year later, we saved around $2,000 that’s when Pae bought his car so he can take me to school. Pae went to adult school in Fresno for 3 years.

In 1992, the month of December I went to Fresno New Year to go have fun with my cousins. We pov pob “ball tossing” with random guys and with my other cousins. Hours later we were still at the same spot, until this guy name Neng Khang talked to me. I didn’t really care, we communicated for 7 days straight at Fresno New Year. After a year later with communication with me and my family, I got married to him and we lived in Oroville since that was where his parents lived. I was happy and excited for my new life with the guy who loved me so much since I had no parents. We were still living with my mother-in-law and my father-in-law with my husband’s sisters and brothers. His family was real big. He had 7 sisters, 2 brothers plus him, and great grandma, all of them weren’t married yet so it was hard to stay in a house of 3 bed rooms and one bathroom for 14 people all total.

A year later with so much love, I had a daughter name Sai in November 1994. Mother and father-in-law were so happy to have a first grand-child. Around when my sister Sai was around 6 months old, dad went to go find a job in Sacramento and he got in one week. Mom lived with the grandparents, while dad was living with my other grandpa Vue in Sacramento for 2 months. Dad saved his money for an apartment to take mom and live with him and he aimed it. Mom was pregnant by then also. He came back to Oroville to take mom, Sai, and the coming up baby to Sacramento so they’ll be closer to each other. He had always gone to work every night at 11pm till 7am. I had always waked up to make his food, so he can bring it to work and not starve to death, while he’s at work I took care of Sai.

In the shock of 1995, I got a baby boy but was born premature that weighs 3 pounds. Cause of the premature and since the hospital wouldn’t let you sleep over night, we had to drop Sai off at grandma’s place so it wouldn’t be so hard for us to handle. Every time when Neng comes home from work every day, we head straight to the hospital to check up on my boy and to feed him some milk. Like after a month later, the doctors decided to let Kue, my brother come home. Bills came in a month later; total of everything was around $120,000. Neng couldn’t pay for it since his pay check was never enough, so Neng and I went to the doctor’s office for some help. The doctor had said, “Go to the welfare office, and ask them if you guys can get qualify for welfare to pay for the medical bill”. We went straight to the welfare social worker, and they asked some questions. After an hour later they had told us that we qualify for welfare. My family had welfare till my dad paid all of the bills for Kue’s medical. Dad had worked so hard ever since then, he also worked over time to get more money every day to pay the house bills.

2 years later, I was born in July in 1997. We still lived in the same apartment; dad still worked at the same place and also had work hard still. The year of 1998, my sister Bao Bai was born. Everything was the same. We lived in the apartment for 7 years. Neng and I decided to move out of the apartment since he had enough money on his pay check to pay for the new house that he wanted to buy for our family. Neng bought the house in 2001 and we moved in as soon as possible. A week later Sai went to school in 2nd grade and Kue was in 1st grade. I never worked, except of being a house wife taking care of everyone every day.

Another 2 years later, the last kid of the family was a boy. My brother was named Vaam Kaav. I now had gone to 1st grade and Bao Bai was in kindergartener. My mom finally stopped having kids. She had what she wished for, which was to have a nice family, a loving, caring husband who supports her and makes her life easier. Also, I wouldn’t have to remember how poor I used to be.

I’m lucky to have a man who takes care of his family and his wife, so I wouldn’t have to work so hard any more like I use to. I dreamed to just get married and have a great life, my kids graduating from college and get a good job with a life to begin of; not like mines. That’s my dreams and what I want best.

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This article has 15 comments. Post your own now!

kmallonee2002 said...
Apr. 17, 2015 at 12:10 am
This was a very moving story. I am a student in an Intercultural Class in Idaho and I am writing a paper on the Hmong culture. Part of the assignment is to interview someone and I would like to interview you, if you are ok with that? If not I understand as well. :)
GoldenTeacher said...
Jun. 28, 2013 at 2:34 pm
I loved the way you wrote the story of your mother!  I found it powerful and thought you did an amazing job of writing in her voice. I felt her struggles and experienced her pain through your writing.  Congratulations! 
dlitebgirl replied...
Aug. 30, 2013 at 10:08 pm
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. 
Ewallace said...
Jun. 28, 2013 at 2:32 pm
What an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing your mother's experience.
dlitebgirl replied...
Aug. 30, 2013 at 10:07 pm
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
Foggy said...
Jun. 28, 2013 at 2:29 pm
Wow! This is a powerful story and it is so wonderful that you wrote this story down for others to read about. My mom is the first of her family to move to California. Have you ever gone back?
dlitebgirl replied...
Aug. 30, 2013 at 10:06 pm
Thanks for reading my story.  My family and I haven't went back to visit since we can't afford plane tickets, but we're hoping to go soon.
ucdjoe said...
Jun. 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm
Wow!  this is an amazing piece.  I am only two months younger than your mom, so this story resonated with me as I thought how different our lives were.  Thank you for sharing this story.
dlitebgirl replied...
Aug. 30, 2013 at 10:05 pm
Thanks you for reading my story .
jfeeney said...
Jun. 28, 2013 at 2:18 pm
You're a great writer, powerful details that brought your mom's history to life. Keep up the good work!
dlitebgirl replied...
Aug. 30, 2013 at 10:04 pm
Sorry for the late response, but thanks for taking your time to read my story.
lilly95 said...
Jul. 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm
A lot of parts were confusing and needs to be reworded to make sense. You were also jumping everywhere too. You go from your mom’s point of view to yours. For example in the paragraph “My name is Xee Yang” and you put “I’m her daughter and we now live in Sacramento” Can be confusing because with the next sentence it seems as if YOU were the baby that was 6 months old.
jj77 replied...
Jun. 27, 2013 at 9:01 pm
I think what the writer is doing is describing her mom in the first paragraph and then switch to the point of view of her mother telling her a story about her leaving of Vietnam
jj77 replied...
Jun. 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm
opps . . . switching
jj77 said...
May 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm
Wow!  You are a wonderful writer.  This is very powerful.  Makes my troubles feel very small, but also makes me feel very lucky.
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