My mom recently apologized to me for being a bad mother. It's been weighing on her conscience for some time. She felt guilty for not taking better care of me when I was 13, the year we moved here from China.
I was flabbergasted by her apology. I don't remember being neglected. Sure, I spent a lot of time eating takeout alone and watching "I Love Lucy." But I never felt unloved. My mother, a professional accountant in China, had taken multiple shifts at a grocery store scooping Chinese food into boxes, earning our rent at $4.25 an hour. She'd come home fatigued, complaining about her backaches and burn marks on her pianist hands.
Then at 40, my mom started night school to learn enough English for an office job. She wasn't around a lot but it wasn't negligence. It was the opposite of that. She made sacrifices so I could eat and be warm and learn English and get a full scholarship and land a good career. She toiled so I could travel the world seeing what she never saw.
I remember chowing down steaks while she insisted she wasn't hungry. I remember her tears leaving the parking lot of my dorm. I remember her radiant smiles at my college graduation. The fact is no one will love me more.
Recently she made me a two-hour tape that chronicles my family history. She recounts an episode after my father died of cancer when she herself had been contemplating death. As she rocked me in her arms I told her not to cry, that I would be good to her and that things would get better. It's hard to imagine a five-year-old saying such precocious things but circumstances sealed our bond, flesh and blood, mother and daughter.