Love as Thick as Porridge

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How can you tell if you’re loved? Sometimes, says Enya Pan, it’s the difference between thick and runny porridge.

My mom never told me a single “I love you.” She never kissed me on the cheek when she dropped me off at elementary school like other parents did. So I had always thought that Chinese people are just unemotional; just reserved and conservative, part of their “tiger mom” nature. To me, love was heart emojis and warm smiles and pats on the back, and because I didn’t receive any of that, I thought I wasn’t loved.

Little did I know I was possibly the most loved person in the world. I just didn’t see it. I had no idea what love even was.

Chinese love is viscous. It’s as thick as the porridge that my mom makes every day in the rice cooker — the sticky jasmine rice that forms large and swollen clumps, the water completely evaporated, the heaviness of the spoon that I have to lift to bring the rice to my mouth. I used to hate thick porridge, refusing to eat it because it was hard to swallow.

As I matured, though, I began to notice how much of my parents’ love I had so ignorantly overlooked. Every morning, I would wake up to the smell of scrambled eggs sizzling on the pan. It was my mom who would wake up at 6 am to prepare a full meal for me; a breakfast of specially made green bean porridge because I can’t drink milk, eggs for Vitamin D, and a toasted bagel with peanut butter smeared on top for protein. She would force me to eat everything and leave no crumbs, nagging me to hurry so that I wouldn’t go to school on an empty stomach.

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Late at night, I would hear the angry footsteps in the hallway. It was my dad at 3 am who would fling open my bedroom door—furious and begging me to go to bed. I always told him off, saying, “But you didn’t even sleep yet.” Yet it wasn’t even about him.

I never understood the importance of these events until I realized how much love and persistence it required to wake up early just to make me breakfast or urge me to sleep earlier. Loving me is a routine for them. It is also something I could never fully reciprocate.

There’s no room for pretty words. They’re too free-flowing, too light, too easy to digest and slip out of your mouth. To me, pretty words are nothing but runny porridge.

With a Perspective, I’m Enya Pan.

Enya Pan is a senior at Daugherty Valley High School in San Ramon.