Memories

Memories are so haunting

I drove by a familiar place today. For a brief moment I was reminded of a time when life was innocent, and the most complicated thing that summer was forcing myself to sit down and comprehend all that literature for my summer assignment.

You’ve always put my education first.

I don’t recall a time when you’ve ever let me down when it comes to my education. That was always a priority in our family, and often times I feel your time and effort was wasted on me. But I remember you found your way to this particular Barnes & Noble. So far from home. Such a scary world out there without GPS and smartphones, but you’ve never failed me.

What happened, daddy?

When I was younger and I made mistakes, or I did something to disappoint you, screams and violent yelling would proceed. I was always so terrified of your booming voice. That thunderous sound back then was a reiteration of how wrong my actions were, a reminder of how disappointed you were in me.

What happened to that yelling? What happened to that innocence?

Those violent storms are now replaced with silence. I’m older now. I’m older now, and you’re growing weary I suppose. I’ve come to understand when I disappoint you. I don’t need the sounds of thunder to remind me that my choices do not meet your approval. It’s ironic how as a child, loud screams are an indication of dreams deferred, and now silence fills that same void. But that’s how you know I’ve grown up, right daddy?

I’ve made my choices. I hope I can live with them. I have been quite successful as a matter of fact. However, there are days like today. There are brief moments like these. There are deja vu locations that instantly take me back to a time where my choices were fixed by you. All I had to do was be angry at you.

Anger is so much easier than accepting that my choices disappoint you.

Anger is so much more forgiving than accepting that you’ve never abandoned me, but I’m beginning to abandon you. Anger is less haunting than guilt. Anger doesn’t spark memories in the middle of a hot summer day. But guilt, guilt stirs up memories that no matter how pleasant, can haunt my actions for the rest of my life.

Mother’s Day

for the first time in weeks… amidst all the yelling and screaming and misunderstanding … today we spent 3 hours as a family putting together a $200 dollar gazebo in the backyard… how pleasant… right?

Then i attempted at making thai lettuce wrap (turned out very well) … and vinaigrette (?) korean beef salad. yummy yummy in our stummy.

although… at this point i might fail my bio final. But my mom is happy. In fact, both my parents are happy. and… we’re actually all sitting here IN PEACE all together in the living room tonight. My parents are watching the usual Chinese dubbed shows on SBTN and my brother is grading papers … and as for me? … well, i believe i shall try to study a bit …

I know it’s not a BIG celebration or w/e for mother’s day… but for my family… this is actually a very big effort.

May this be the start of… a new beginning.

(i’m hopeful, despite past experiences)

Have a happy mother’s day … everyone. do something nice for your mother and grandmother. If you’re far away… a phone-call just to say hi even will make a difference 🙂

No One Takes a Picture of Something They Want to Forget…

Even to this day, I regret not letting myself fall into that instant of misery that they’ve all fallen into. I forced myself to leave the fragments of memories that were painful behind, but it still comes back to haunt me occasionally. You see my perfect, vivid smile, and to you it’s the sunshine that fills my life, but to me it is just a smile. Simply a smile and nothing more. There’s this large picture frame on the wall hanging in the family room back at home; it consists of fourteen photos that my mother and I have chosen. We wanted to frame our history from the day she and my father got married, and that’s what we did. Within these fourteen photos are the remnants of our past, the one we left behind, and the ones we’ve created and forced to be beautiful here in America. The sad thing is, when we forced ourselves to make these hard times beautiful to get through them, we also forced ourselves to forget the purity of our homeland; now all we see is the corruption and greed.

I look at these pictures, and it tells me everything I need to remember about my family. We knew poverty. We knew the warmth of family. We knew family morals and relations. We knew the bondage of marriage, of family, and of friends. We knew deaths, and goodbyes. And somehow in all those virtues that I’ve been raised into, I faltered. At the age of six, on that train heading towards Saigon – my last voyage to the south of VN as a child – I learned how to bottle up my feelings and hide every last bit of heartfelt feelings I can muster with my broken faith. I learned how to smile on the outside and at the same time cry out every last bit of tears I have on the inside. I learned to withdraw myself from the world around me.

I learned to forget.

I began to forget my goodbyes and their tears as they stood facing our tiny dirty window on the train waving to us. In the picture I only see their backs, but I can clearly remember the agony of their pain in my nightmares. Sometimes I forget that it was then that I learned not to cry. I try to erase so much I forget where the boundaries of reality and falsehood lie.

I wanted to say goodbye. I wanted to cry, and I still do. I want to stare them in the face and tell them, I will miss them – and I have missed them very much. I want to be able to face the people I call my family and admit to them that my heart has been bleeding. Shattered. Frozen. But I can’t bring myself to do that, because in doing so, I also have to admit that after 11 years, I have to say goodbye to the roots of my identity. Que huong – two simple words that carry a world of meanings. To my cousins it means nothing, because they’re still thriving in that land – that land that I desperately return to in my dreams. If you ask what my favorite song is, it’s that song: “Que huong moi nguoi chi mot, nhu la chi mot me thoi. Que huong neu ai khong nho, se khong lon noi thanh nguoi…”.

I stare at that picture for hours every time I’m home. I stare at it to remind myself what a terrible person I have been. And every time I see that 6 year old, sitting with her emotionless face staring back at me while everyone around her was in tears, it makes me cry. It makes me cry because even to this day I still hold on to that innocence – that moment right before my heart turned so bitter against the world. I hate that child, and I hate how I let her grow up alongside me. I wish I was as strong as they were. I wish I had left it behind me and moved on. But that’s my weakness: I’m so focused on preserving things as the way they were, that I forget that it has been so long now.

Time is my greatest teacher, and my fiercest enemy. I am constantly aware of every second that passes. But Time is unaware of my existence and my pleas – it keeps on moving forward, oblivious of my cries.

5 năm sau… (5 yrs later)

1998

Nam nam da troi qua. Con van nho nhung buoi chieu ngoi ben canh ong ngam anh chieu tan… con nho nhung dem toi gio mat trang thanh trong vong tay ong nghe ong ke chuyen… con nho guong mat dieu hien va lan hoi am ap cua ong…

i wish i can turn to u now for the will and strength to carry on…

but…

wishes don’t change…wat is real or how it feels