My mother was a very attractive woman. However, a girl from a poor family had no means to marry early in life. In fact, her marriage was a sheer beautiful accident. Apparently, my father, who was on leave from the marines, saw my mother pass by my paternal grandparents’ house one day. My mother was on her way to visit a relative who happened to live next door to my grandparents. My father was so taken back by the glimpse of her that he immediately rushed inside to urge my grandparents to find out who the pretty girl was next door. The next thing was that a matchmaker was sought to help talk to my mother’s family and then a marriage was later arranged.
For my mother and her family, the marriage was considered a good catch because my dad was a charming young man and his parents were very reputable. What more could she ask for? However, life was not easy for her to be a wife to the first born son and the first daughter-in-law in a large family. Her adult married life was not a smooth peaceful ride. In fact, life was full of disadvantages and disappointments for someone like her who always feels ashamed of not being able to read and write.
After having four children and establishing a hairdressing business, my mother still did not have any chance to go back to school for continued education. She spent her time raising her four children. After my father fell ill to cancer and paralyzed, she took care of my father full time for many years. After my father’s passing, she then moved on to help care for my brother’s children. After my father had passed away, she finally decided to do something that she always wanted to do for herself.
A few years ago, I received a Christmas card in the mail. It was a greeting card from home. My first nephew had just started grade one and he was so adorable. I read the cute writing on the envelope and opened to read some more. Surprisingly, the card was signed by my mother. My mother had gone to school to learn to read and write! Those words were not childish writing done by a 7 year-old. Those were precious print pressed down hard, stroke by stroke, by my mother’s bony hands. I held that card close to my heart and cried my eyes out. For those people who do not appreciate the privilege of education, they just don’t understand how lucky they are, compared to those who luck out in life.
It has been and always will be a struggle for my mother to learn to read and write. But at this point in life, she just wants to do something that she did not get to do long time ago.
Four years ago, when my mother came to visit me, she was studying Japanese in her spare time. We had a giggle about that. Of all foreign languages, why on earth would she pick Japanese? She really should learn English which will eventually benefit her if she ever wants to come to visit me. I guess the truth is she is more familiar with Japanese than English since her generation grew up learning Japanese when
Years ago after my father’s passing, my mother started to volunteer at Tzu Chi Buddhist charity group. She initiated a recycling program within her community. Everyday she would take on those dirty jobs that no one would care to do. She would sort through the garbage at the community parking lot, bundle the cardboard boxes and arrange pick-ups for the recycled waste. We really hate to see her take on heavy workloads while suffering from muscle spasm and arthritis pain. However, she really enjoys what she does!
For years, the community leaders would recognize my mother for her dedication to organize the recycling program. Last year, she finally told the community chair that she would like to decline the recognition because she has no more space on the wall and the shelves to put up those awards, plaques and medals.
“Please stop giving me any awards,” she said. “I am not doing this for any recognition.”
That’s my mother who honestly does not do things for recognition. She only does it because that is the right thing to do. While she thinks that it is nice to be recognized for the efforts, she simply has no space to display all of the awards and those materials eventually will become a waste.
My mother spends a lot of her time working as a volunteer now and that is the reason why she keeps an appointment book. She had to book her time off for me while I was visiting
My mother is a very humble woman because she has been treated by some as an inferior in our society all her life. When we were young, we used to get really upset whenever she was insulted by ignorant comments. We were also upset that she would passively accept the way she was treated. There was only one wish that my mother would bestow upon all of us; that is, to do well in school and to have a good education. She wanted us to have a good education because that was the only painful experience that she had to endure all her life.
I am exceedingly proud of my mother. Her life experience motivates me to take on a learning journey. Because of her, I am the way I am. I love to learn and teach, to help others and to be the voice for those people who are too embarrassed to speak up for themselves. (Pardon my language, but sometimes I am a bit bossy and bitchy, which is a total opposite of my mother.)
That is my mother, a woman without an education, who grew up a farm girl and became a dedicated mother for four of us. I love her!